Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he has been in contact with federal officials regarding the cancellation of thousands of Southwest Airlines flights in recent days, demanding that the airline be held accountable for a cascading series of issues that have left travelers stranded around the nation.
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 that normal operations could continue.
That forced the cancellation of thousands of flights, leaving passengers stranded and causing massive operational headaches for the airline, with lost luggage, jammed customer service lines and travelers scrambling for alternative transportation or lodging while the logjam is addressed.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation have promised to “hold Southwest accountable” if they fail to live up to their promises to consumers, something that Pritzker echoed in his own statement on Tuesday.
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“I am closely following the ongoing challenges consumers are dealing with regarding their canceled Southwest flights,” Pritzker said. “I have spoken with Secretary Buttigieg to express the frustration of thousands of Illinoisans who have been stranded and missed out on quality time with their families or who have had to call off work because they couldn’t make it back home.”
The airline is expected to operate a shortened schedule in coming days as it works to get flight crews and planes positioned to resume normal operations.
That 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 impacted by the flight cancellations.
“Southwest Airlines should take immediate action to assist all those that are stranded and waiting endless hours for their flights,” he said. “All travelers must be compensated for invaluable loss of time this holiday season, on top of compensation for rescheduled flights, hotels and alternative transportation.”
Buttigieg’s office says that he spoke to the company’s CEO about the situation, saying that the delays and cancellations “came about as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions.”
The secretary also spoke to leaders of unions representing flight attendants and pilots for the airline, who have also been impacted by the flight cancellations.
“He also conveyed to the CEO that he expects Southwest to do right by their pilots and flight attendants – and all their workers – in these situations,” a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said.