USDOT Still Investigates Southwest Airlines' Meltdown In December

An ongoing investigation by the U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) is currently looking into Southwest Airlines' December meltdown. In December, Southwest Airlines canceled 16,700 flights, affecting over 2 million passengers, due to its crew scheduling software's inability to handle staffing changes. 


In January, the department stated that it was investigating whether Southwest executives had "engaged in unrealistic scheduling of flights," which is considered an unfair and deceptive practice under federal law. The USDOT announced that it is continuing its "rigorous and comprehensive investigation."


Southwest Airlines disclosed in a securities filing last week that it could face fines or penalties from the USDOT or other governmental agencies. They have not yet responded to the situation. The department also mentioned that it is investigating several domestic airlines for unrealistic scheduling of flights. In late June and early July, United Airlines had an increase in cancellations due to air traffic control staffing issues, but it is unclear if the department is formally investigating those flight cancellations.

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg revealed that the USDOT is looking into the situation, stating, "It was another scenario where you had the rest of the system seem to recover and one player struggling - so certainly something we're looking at it." In July, Buttigieg also commented on why Delta Air Lines passengers remained on board a plane at the Las Vegas airport that sat on the tarmac in extreme heat that some passengers said topped 100 degrees. "I want to know how it was possible for passengers to be left in triple-digit heat onboard an aircraft for that long," he said, calling the issue "infuriating" and "shocking." Delta Air Lines is aware of the investigation and is "working in full cooperation."

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