DALLAS (AP) — The federal government is investigating whether Southwest Airlines knowingly scheduled more flights than it could handle in December, when it ended up canceling nearly 17,000 flights.
The Transportation Department says scheduling too many flights would violate federal laws against deceptive practices. The department said Wednesday it's in the early stages of its investigation, and it will also make sure that Southwest provides prompt refunds and reimbursements to customers who were stranded by the cancellations.
Southwest's breakdown started with a winter storm and was compounded when its crew-scheduling system became overloaded. The airline has hired a consultant to study what went wrong.
The Department of Transportation released a statement:
DOT is in the initial phase of a rigorous and comprehensive investigation into Southwest Airlines’ holiday debacle that stranded millions. DOT has made clear to Southwest that it must provide timely refunds and reimbursements and will hold Southwest accountable if it fails to do so. DOT is also probing whether Southwest executives engaged in unrealistic scheduling of flights which under federal law is considered an unfair and deceptive practice. DOT will leverage the full extent of its investigative and enforcement power to ensure consumers are protected and this process will continue to evolve as the Department learns more.
Southwest also released a statement:
Our holiday flight schedule was thoughtfully designed and offered to our Customers with the backing of a solid plan to operate it, and with ample staffing. Our systems and processes became stressed while working to recover from multiple days of flight cancelations across 50 airports in the wake of an unprecedented storm. We have been working with the DOT and will continue to cooperate with any inquiry or request from government oversight or elected officials. We’re acutely focused on learning from this event, mitigating the risk of a repeat occurrence, and delivering the hospitality and outstanding service our Customers expect from us.
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