Southwest reports progress on refunds after holiday chaos, but sees further delays

Southwest Airlines, which canceled thousands of flights last week and infuriated passengers, said on Tuesday it was making “solid progress” in processing refunds even as another issue caused more travel problems.

Many people tweeted Tuesday the crews said them the planes could not take off because the weather system was down or they did not have the necessary weather information.

Reports of delays on Tuesday came just days after the airline said it had resumed normal operations after the holiday travel chaos.

Travelers line up at Southwest Airlines check-in counters at Denver International Airport
Travelers line up at Southwest Airlines check-in counters at Denver International Airport on Dec. 30, 2022.David Zalubowski/AP

Southwest, in a statement late Tuesday, said third-party provider IBM “experienced a brief disruption to its service that provides pre-shipment weather data for Southwest flights.”

The airline said “only minor delays” were expected for the rest of the evening.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate everyone’s patience as we strive to get customers to their destination safely and as quickly as possible,” the statement read.

The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment, saying it was the airline’s business.

In a statement Wednesday, IBM said it “has experienced limited disruption to service provided to Southwest Airlines and has been working in partnership with Southwest to restore this service as quickly as possible.”

Flight-tracking website FlightAware showed Southwest 138 cancellations – or 3% – and around 1,560 delays on Tuesday. There were 24 cancellations in the Southwest and 115 delays for Wednesday, according to the website.

The latest delays came after the Dallas-based airline, which canceled two-thirds of its daily flights for most of the week before the New Year, said on Friday normal operations had resumed.

All carriers were affected by a major winter storm that affected most of the United States before Christmas weekend, but other carriers have recovered.

Southwest canceled thousands of flights, stranding passengers and their luggage and leading to what was called a meltdown that enraged travelers.

The US Department of Transportation called it “unacceptable” and pledged to hold Southwest accountable. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the collapse was a failure of Southwest’s systems.

The Southwest CEO promised investments in technology, which he said were already underway.

Earlier on Tuesday, the airline said in a statement that it was working to regain the trust of its customers. Southwest said it has made “solid progress” in rectifying issues caused to passengers, including processing refund requests and reuniting travelers with their lost luggage.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that “Southwest Airlines has let down its customers – point blank.”

She said customers must be reimbursed and reunited with their luggage.

“The Ministry of Transport is monitoring. They are monitoring this very, very closely to make sure this all happens and will seek fines from Southwest if it doesn’t cover a cost,” Jean-Pierre said.

Flight-tracking website FlightAware showed Southwest 138 cancellations – or 3% – and around 1,560 delays on Tuesday. There were 24 cancellations in the Southwest and 115 delays for Wednesday, according to the website.

Emma Li and Suzanne Ciechalski contributed.

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