Southwest Airlines has canceled so many flights that the U.S. government is investigating

Pete Buttigieg and the USDOT are on the case.

Southwest Airlines passengers sit with their luggage in the check-in area during delays and cancella...
Bebeto Matthews/AP/Shutterstock

If you tried to fly for the holidays, there’s a good chance you didn’t get where you need to go — particularly if you flew Southwest Airlines. The major airline canceled 2,886 flights on Monday — that’s 70% of scheduled flights, and about half the total number of canceled flights across all airlines. And that’s not including cancellations by Southwest on Sunday and today, per FlightAware. As a result, the U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT), led by Pete Buttigieg, is taking a long hard look at Southwest’s aggressive smashing of the “cancel” button.

"USDOT is concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays as well as the failure to properly support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay," the department said in a statement, per Reuters. USDOT added that it would "closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules." Pete Buttigieg, the current Secretary of Transportation, also shared on Twitter that he is “tracking [the series of cancellations] closely & will have more to say about this” today.

In a statement on Monday, Southwest Airlines effectively pointed at the weather app and shrugged, citing “extreme winter weather” while noting that “Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S.” It swears it had full staffing available, but the massive storm coupled with the rush hour traffic of a holiday weekend has overtaxed the airline’s systems.

As is customary in these situations, frustrated travelers have done the only thing they can: turn to Twitter for the airing of grievances. One Twitter user claims the cancellations are unrelated to the weather, saying “It’s lack of employees. They’ve worked 10 hours straight, no break.”

Others joined in with their observations and tales of previously scheduled vacation plans. “I was just informed that all SWA flights are grounded until 12/31,” tweets Dawn Brinkley. “This is unacceptable, especially when I'm sitting here watching the weather channel, and the flight map is full! How is it that other airlines are flying, and SWA is canceling flights without communication?”

And of course, even those who weren’t suffering at the hands of Southwest’s saw a chance to get a good tweet off:

To everyone still trying to travel: good luck, and maybe switch to Delta if you can.