Gov. Pritzker calls for Southwest Airlines to compensate stranded holiday passengers – 25 News Now

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(25 News Now and AP) – Gov. JB Pritzker is joining a chorus of public officials blasting Southwest Airlines for canceling thousands of flights after the massive winter storm, stranding travelers during the Christmas holiday.

In a prepared statement posted on his social media pages, Pritzker called on Southwest to take immediate action helping those who are stranded and waiting “endless hours” for their flights.

The governor called the situation a “debacle” and called on the airline to compensate travelers.

“All travelers might be compensated for invaluable loss of time this holiday season, on top of compensation for rescheduled flights, hotels and alternative transportation,” Pritzker said.

“I also urge the leadership of Southwest to be proactive in communicating openly and honestly with their customers about the rebooking of future flights and what the airline will be able to handle in the days and weeks ahead,” the governor said.

Pritzker said he’s spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “to express the frustration of the thousands of Illinoisians who have been stranded and missed out on quality time with their families or had to call off work because they couldn’t make it back home.”

Buttigieg, who has criticized airlines for previous disruptions, said his agency would examine the causes of Southwest’s widespread cancellations and whether the airline was meeting its legal obligations to stranded customers.

In Congress, the Senate Commerce Committee also promised an investigation. Two Senate Democrats called on Southwest to provide “significant” compensation for stranded travelers, saying that the airline has the money because it plans to pay $428 million in dividends next month.

The size and severity of the storm created havoc for many airlines, although the largest number of canceled flights Tuesday were at airports where Southwest is a major carrier, including Denver, Chicago Midway, Las Vegas, Baltimore and Dallas.

The problems began over the weekend and snowballed Monday, when Southwest called off more than 70% of its flights.

In a video that Southwest posted late Tuesday, CEO Robert Jordan said Southwest would operate a reduced schedule for several days but hoped to be “back on track before next week.”

Jordan blamed the winter storm for snarling the airline’s “highly complex” network. He said Southwest’s tools for recovering from disruptions work “99% of the time, but clearly we need to double down” on upgrading systems to avoid a repeat of this week.

“We have some real work to do in making this right,” said Jordan, a 34-year Southwest veteran who became CEO in February. “For now, I want you to know that we are committed to that.”

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December 28, 2022 at 09:09AM

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