The Department of Transportation (DOT) said Monday it would investigate thousands of flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines that left travelers stranded at airports as a massive winter storm swept across the country.
The nasty weather grounded some 4,000 domestic flights nationwide, but according to the tracking website FlightAware, nearly three-quarters of those—2,900 flights—were Southwest planes.
Other major air carriers, including American, United, Delta and Jetblue, suffered cancelation rates of zero to 2% compared to 62% for Southwest, according to FlightAware.
Southwest spokesman Jay McVay said the cancellations accumulated as storm systems moved across the country, leaving crews and planes out of place.
“So we’ve been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and get back to normal safely, which is our number one priority as quickly as we could,” he said from Houston. “And that’s exactly how we ended up where we are today.”
“We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent,” Southwest said. The tools it uses were “operating at capacity,” it said.
As of 7am Tuesday, more than 2,800 flights had already been canceled in the U.S. and the problems were likely to continue into at least Wednesday.
Holiday travelers scrambled to try to rebook flights.
DOT tweeted out that it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” adding that it would look into whether Southwest could have done anything about the cancellations and whether the airline was complying with its customer service plan.