Southwest faces scrutiny for flight cancellations

STORY: As the saying goes, a bit of humor goes a long way.

And it was a long way to go for this mother and daughter pair, who were among thousands of frustrated Southwest Airlines passengers stranded at the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

The budget carrier slashed two-thirds of its 4,000 scheduled flights across the country.

That’s more than 90% of all U.S. airline cancellations.

Despite other airlines having largely recovered from the holiday winter storm.

“We got a text message at like nine o'clock last night that our flight was canceled. I was on the phone for like four hours on hold, no answer. So we woke up this morning, I said, let's just come to the airport to see what's going on. So clearly, the flights are canceled, canceled, canceled and more canceled.”

Seas of suitcases are growing in airports across the United States.

In Arlington, Virginia, Reuters spoke to a traveller who was stuck in Dallas by herself over Christmas, due to Southwest’s cancellations.

“I wasn't expecting to find my luggage, and I literally had nothing. And Southwest didn't want to pay for anything. They didn't want to reimburse me. They didn't want to put me in a hotel. So I dished out extra money to fly with American Airlines. And I finally got here.”

Southwest Airlines is now under fire from the U.S. government over its cancellations.

President Joe Biden tweeted that his administration was working to ensure airlines were “held accountable”.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg called it a “meltdown” on CNN.

And said union leaders at Southwest have been raising alarm about technology issues with the carrier’s aging systems for some time.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan apologised to customers and staff in a video message, and acknowledged the urgent need for upgrades.

The Dallas-based carrier has scrapped more than 12,000 flights since Friday.