CHICAGO — Cancellations, delays and frustrations continue for travelers of Southwest Airlines.
Already Wednesday morning, 2,500 flights have been pulled from the airlines arrival and departure boards nationwide.
According to the FlightAware tracking service, more than 91% of all canceled flights in the U.S. early Wednesday were from Southwest, which has been unable to recover from ferocious winter storms that raked large swaths of the country over the weekend.
The operational systems of Southwest have been uniquely affected, so much so that the federal government is now investigating what happened at the Dallas carrier, which has frustrated its own flight and ground crews as well.
On Wednesday evening, the Chicago Department of Aviation released a statement with updated information.
The CDA said Southwest expects to return to normal operations by the weekend.
Bags stored at the airport will be removed and placed into a secure area by the end of the day Wednesday before the bags are flown back to its original destination.
The CDA also said any flight disruptions from Dec. 24 through Jan. 2 will be reimbursed for expenses by Southwest.
You can read the entire statement below.
Members of the traveling public remain rightly concerned and anxious about holiday travel given the ongoing situation involving Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at Midway International Airport.
The CDA is committed to ensuring that travelers have the information they need to get to their destination safely, and is therefore providing the following updates.
Southwest has increased their overall operations by approximately 20% in the last two days, and based on frequent discussion with Southwest officials, the airline expects to be back at 100% by this weekend.
Southwest has assured the CDA that all baggage being stored in Midway baggage claim will be removed and placed into a secure facility by the end of the day today before continuing on to its final destination
Additional CDA security personnel from O’Hare continue to be deployed to Midway on a round-the-clock basis to ensure the baggage claim area remains secure
Southwest has assured the CDA that every flight disruption between Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, and Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, will be considered “controllable” and the airline will therefore reimburse “reasonable” incidental expenses, including hotels, rental cars, meals, tickets on another airline, etc.
For flights canceled since Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, Southwest has assured the CDA that the airline will fully refund the fare and any unused ancillary charges
The CDA will continue to urge Southwest to better communicate with the public and further extend its policies on reimbursements and cancellations.
Finally, the CDA continues to ask passengers flying Southwest Airlines to check their flight status before heading to the airport, and to visit southwest.com/traveldisruption for additional updates from the airline.
Additional information on lost or delayed baggage is available from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) at transportation.gov, and other resources are available on the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection website at transportation.gov/airconsumer.
This week, with cancellations from other major airlines ranging from none to 2%, Southwest has canceled nearly 10,000 flights as of Wednesday and warned of thousands more Thursday and Friday, according to FlightAware.
The airport issued a thread of tweets Tuesday night about the issues and said additional personnel from Chicago O’Hare International Airport will come to Midway to help with customer service.
“There is a huge amount of work to return this national aviation system to normal operations, and we continue to urge Southwest Airlines to proactively communicate their progress with their passengers and the traveling public,” a tweet from the airport read.
Before Wednesday, passengers had to call and leave a message on a 1-800 number to find out about their bags.
But not there is a self-service tool to help travelers submit requests for refunds and other things.
In a tweeted statement Tuesday afternoon, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said he is closely following the “ongoing challenges” with Southwest flights.
He said he has spoken with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg said Tuesday he had spoken with union leaders and the CEO of Southwest Airlines and conveyed “the Department’s expectation that Southwest meet its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again.”
Also Tuesday, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan issued a video and written update.
“I want everyone who is dealing with the problems we’ve been facing, whether you haven’t been able to get to where you need to go or you’re one of our heroic Employees caught up in a massive effort to stabilize the airline, to know is that we’re doing everything we can to return to a normal operation,” Jordan said. “And please also hear that I’m truly sorry.”
Jordan said the airline “will go above and beyond” to “take care of our customers.”
The Senate Commerce Committee is also investigating, saying the airline can afford to compensate travelers because it plans to play nearly $430 million in dividend next month.