Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker says he has been in contact with federal officials about the cancellation of thousands of Southwest Airlines flights in recent days, demanding that the airline be held accountable for a series of issues that have left travelers stranded around the country.
As a result of winter weather across the Midwest and East Coast around the Christmas holiday, Southwest found itself unable to get crews to and from destinations to ensure normal operations could continue.
This forced the cancellation of thousands of flights, leaving passengers stranded and causing massive operational headaches for the airline, with lost luggage, blocked customer service lines and travelers scrambling for alternative transport or accommodation while the congestion is addressed.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation have promised to “hold Southwest accountable” if they fail to deliver on their promises to consumers, something Pritzker echoed in his statement Tuesday.
“I am closely following the ongoing challenges that consumers are facing regarding their canceled flights on Southwest,” Pritzker said. “I spoke with Secretary Buttigieg to express the frustration of the thousands of Illinoisans who have been stranded and lost quality time with their families or who have had to cancel work because they can’t get home.”
The airline is expected to operate a reduced schedule in the coming days as it works to deploy flight crews and aircraft to resume normal operations.
This decision has resulted in the cancellation of thousands of flights, leaving travelers with limited options as they either book flights with other airlines or order rental cars, with supply and cost issues facing them in both scenarios.
Pritzker called on Southwest to step up its efforts to help those stranded and affected by flight cancellations.
“Southwest Airlines must take immediate action to help all those stranded and waiting endless hours for their flights,” he said. “All travelers should be compensated for the invaluable loss of time this holiday season, in addition to compensation for rescheduled flights, hotels and alternative transportation.”
Buttigieg’s office says he spoke with the company’s CEO about the situation, saying the delays and cancellations “came as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions.”
The secretary also spoke to union leaders representing airline flight attendants and pilots, who have also been affected by the flight cancellations.
“He also conveyed to the CEO that he expects Southwest to do the right thing by their pilots and flight attendants — and all of their workers — in these situations,” a Transportation Department spokesman said.