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DOT is investigating whether Southwest’s schedules were “unrealistic” during the holiday crisis

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A Southwest Airlines passenger plane lands at Chicago Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois on December 28, 2022.

Kamil Kshachinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The Department of Transportation said Wednesday that it is in the early stages of an investigation Southwest Airlinesholiday breakup and looking at whether the carrier’s schedules were unrealistic.

Southwest said it canceled more than 16,000 flights between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31 as it was unable to recover from severe winter weather, while management said they had to cancel even more flights to sustainably operate.

The company and unions pointed to outdated scheduling platforms that were not designed to handle the number of flight changes that occurred during the period.

“The DOT is also investigating whether Southwest executives engaged in unrealistic flight scheduling, which is considered an unfair and deceptive practice under federal law,” a DOT spokesman said. “The US Department of Transportation will use all of its investigative and law enforcement powers to ensure that consumers are protected, and this process will continue to evolve as the Department learns more.”

Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg previously promised to hold Southwest accountable for the disruptions, which have left hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded.

“Our holiday flight schedule has been thoughtfully designed and offered to our customers with the support of a solid execution plan and adequate staffing,” Southwest said in a statement late Wednesday. “We will continue to cooperate with any inquiries or requests from government oversight agencies or elected officials. We are strongly focused on learning from this event, reducing the risk of recurrence and providing the hospitality and excellent service that our customers have come to expect from us. “

Southwest is scheduled to report results before the market opens on Thursday.

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