Southwest’s ‘heartfelt apologies’ to travelers are just beginning amid winter storm Elliott chaos

Southwest Airlines Co. has apologized to travelers, and will keep doing so, amid the massive disruption caused by winter storm Elliott.

“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” said Southwest
in a statement Monday. “And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”

On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Transportation said it will look into cancellations by Southwest that left travelers stranded. Citing data from tracking website FlightAware, the Associated Press reports that about 4,000 U.S. domestic flights were canceled Monday, of which 2,900 were Southwest’s.

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“We’re working with safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning Crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us,” said Southwest, in its statement Monday.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Monday, Southwest Chief Executive Bob Jordan warned that more cancellations are ahead as the carrier attempts to recover.

Social media users have also been sharing footage of masses of passenger luggage standing in airport terminals amid what Denver 7 journalist Rob Harris described as “the disaster that is air travel at the moment.”

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Southwest’s stock fell 4.9% in morning trading Tuesday, while the S&P 500 index
was little changed and the U.S. Global Jets exchange-traded fund
slipped 0.7%.

In a note released Tuesday analyst firm Cowen said that Southwest has also felt the impact of employee sickness. “We are aware that Southwest’s Denver operation performed poorly as the airline had an extraordinary number of employees calling in sick,” wrote Cowen analyst Helane Becker. “We expect Southwest to call out the impact as it was worse than the industry and likely hurt earnings more than a ‘normal’ storm.”

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