Southwest Faces Potential Fines Following Major Flight Disruptions

  • The USDOT is persistently investigating Southwest Airlines after a major flight disruption in December impacted over 2 million passengers.
  • Southwest Airlines disclosed potential penalties from the ongoing USDOT investigation or other authorities.
  • USDOT is also delving into other airlines, including an incident involving Delta Air Lines where passengers remained onboard in extreme heat.

WASHINGTON D.C. — In an ongoing inquiry, the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) announced its sustained focus on Southwest Airlines following the carrier's substantial December disruptions. Southwest, due to software issues, called off 16,700 flights affecting over 2 million travelers.

The investigative spotlight, which started in January, hones in on whether Southwest's executives might have dabbled in "unrealistic scheduling of flights," which, as per federal regulations, might be deemed deceptive and unfair. While the department reaffirmed its commitment to a thorough probe, Southwest, in a recent securities disclosure, hinted at the likelihood of facing penalties either from US DOT or other regulatory bodies. On the matter, Southwest remained tight-lipped on Wednesday.

But the examination isn't just confined to Southwest. The Department of Transportation made it known that multiple domestic airlines are also under the lens for potentially unrealistic flight schedules. A notable instance from recent months includes United Airlines attributing heightened cancellations to air traffic control staff challenges. However, it remains uncertain if these cancellations are on US DOT's investigation radar.

On another front, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg vocalized his concerns over a significant incident with Delta Air Lines. In a situation that many deemed alarming, passengers were left onboard a Delta flight in Las Vegas, enduring temperatures that witnesses claim surged past 100 degrees. "The very thought of passengers stuck in such extreme heat is both infuriating and shocking," Buttigieg remarked last month, emphasizing the urgency of the investigation. In response to this, Delta acknowledged the ongoing inquiry, committing to "full cooperation."