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Senators demand Southwest Airlines answers for ‘holiday meltdown’

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Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were two of 15 senators that sent a letter Friday to the CEO of Southwest Airlines demanding answers to what caused its “holiday meltdown" in December, which included thousands of canceled flights. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were two of 15 senators that sent a letter Friday to the CEO of Southwest Airlines demanding answers to what caused its “holiday meltdown” in December, which included thousands of canceled flights. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 13 (UPI) — A group of senators sent a letter Friday, demanding answers from Southwest Airlines over its “holiday meltdown” which included thousands of canceled flights.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., co-authored the letter to the airline’s CEO Robert E. Jordan, which was also signed by 12 other Democrats as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. after Southwest struggled to get back online in the wake of a major winter storm and continued staffing shortages that left tens of thousands of passengers and luggage stranded during the busy holiday weekend.

“For consumers across the country, this failure was more than a headache — it was a nightmare,” the senators wrote. “Travelers were stranded across the country for days at a time, forced to spend hours on hold with Southwest customer service representatives or in-line at Southwest service desks at the airport…The airline must examine the causes of this disaster and ensure it never happens again.”

They noted that all other major airlines canceled slightly more than 1,000 flights combined, while Southwest canceled more than 7,500 flights between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29, at one point axing more than 86% of its scheduled domestic flights.

“Although winter storm Elliott disrupted flights across the country, every other airline operating in the United States managed to return to a regular flight schedule shortly thereafter — except Southwest. Southwest must take all necessary steps to ensure that this debacle never happens again,” the senators wrote.

The senators went on to list a number of specific questions about the company’s outdated scheduling software, personnel decisions, ticket refund policies, passenger baggage decisions, and shareholder compensation.

They gave Jordan until Feb. 2 to provide answers on what led to the massive number of flight delays and cancellations in the final week of December.

Earlier this month, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association blasted the airline’s handling of the holiday season meltdown that saw more than 15,000 flights canceled due to a system failure.

The company expects the meltdown will cost it between $725 million and $825 million in the fourth quarter.

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