Several Southwest Airlines competitors will impose price caps on travel to help thousands of passengers stranded by the budget carrier’s mass flight cancellations this week. This news comes as the beleaguered airline said it will operate a third of its schedule on Thursday, December 29 but plans “to return to normal operation with minimal disruption on Friday” December 30.
American Airlines and United will put a cap on airfares between certain cities, according to CNN. Delta has implemented “walk-in fare caps in U.S. domestic markets,” a spokesperson for the carrier told Axios.
Alaska Airlines, which told Axios it already has price caps in place, will also cut fares in some cities. Frontier Airlines reportedly said it was limiting its best fares to “pre-disruption levels”. Spirit, meanwhile, was waving “modification changes or fare differences” between dozens of cities through Jan. 3, the outlet said.
Southwest cut 2,357 flights Thursday, far eclipsing any other carrier, according to data from Flightaware.com. On Wednesday, Southwest cancellations reached 2,510. Federal authorities said they would investigate the transit collapse.
Southwest’s descent into logistical chaos began on Thursday, December 22. While many airlines saw cancellations due to a historic winter storm that brought blizzard-like conditions to much of the United States, Southwest canceled many flights in areas such as southern California who were not shocked by the weather.
Cancellations swept away thousands of flyers over the holiday weekend and into this week, with no clear path home. There were numerous tales of hours-long queues, days-long delays, overflowing baggage claims and southwestern agents in tears who were struggling with livid customers.
Southwest’s rebooking policy made the lot worse for the company’s customers. The airline does not book passengers on competing airlines, according to CNN.
Because Southwest does not have agreements with other carriers that would allow rebooking to competing airlines, this limits customers’ options. “Southwest is unique in the industry in that we don’t have codeshare partners,” a Southwest spokesperson told CNN. “It’s part of our business model.”
“I’m so sorry,” Southwest general manager Bob Jordan said in a video on Tuesday. He blamed the cancellations on cold temperatures in the United States, saying they were affecting flight paths. “[A]After days of trying to fit much of our full schedule over the busy holiday weekend, we have reached a decision point to drastically reduce our flights to catch up.
Asked to comment on rivals’ moves, Southwest told the Guardian in an email this morning: “We cannot comment on other airlines.”
“We continue to operate a reduced schedule flying about a third of our schedule through Thursday from now on. We have no updates or adjustments to share regarding Friday’s schedule,” the company said. “Our teams are continuing the work of reuniting customers with their bags.”
Southwest said it has “implemented this additional resource” to help customers with web pages to locate their baggage and where they can contact Southwest to rebook or request a refund.
The airline said later Thursday that although Southwest would operate about a third of its schedule on Thursday, December 29, and “we expect to return to normal operations with minimal disruption on Friday, December 30.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the federal transportation agency would investigate Southwest’s mass cancellations and determine whether it was meeting its legal obligations to affected customers. Buttigieg said Southwest should at a minimum provide cash refunds for canceled flights, as well as pay for passenger accommodations and food.
“While we all understand that you can’t control the weather, this clearly crossed the line between what is an out-of-control weather situation and something that is the direct responsibility of the airline,” Buttigieg said on NBC recently. Nightly News.
US Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell also promised to investigate. Two of Cantwell’s fellow Democratic senators and members of the commerce committee also demanded that Southwest provide “meaningful” compensation to abandoned customers, insisting the carrier is capable, if its plans to distribute $428 million in dividends in January are an indication.
As the pandemonium in Southwest caused widespread misery, some stranded passengers managed to find a way home together. Some unlucky travelers – who weren’t for each other – bundled up on road trips rather than waiting for the airline to exit.
Bridget Schuster, one such road-tripper, took to TikTok and documented her trip from Florida to Ohio with three other passengers, all initially foreigners.
“No serial killer vibe so far,” Schuster joked.
The Associated Press contributed reporting