Southwest Airlines plans to resume normal operations on Friday after canceling thousands of flights over the past week due to inclement weather.
The company far surpassed other major carriers by nixing 2,909 flights scheduled on Monday, marking 71% of the company’s volume, according to data from FlightAware. Southwest also canceled 2,536 flights on Tuesday and 2,510 flights on Wednesday, representing 63% and 61% of its flights, respectively.
Though 2,361 flights were canceled as of Thursday afternoon, amounting to 58% of the company’s volume, Southwest said in a statement that they “plan to return to normal operations with minimal disruptions” as soon as Friday.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign Crew, their schedules, and our fleet. With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued Customers and Employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy,” the company remarked. “We have much work ahead of us, including investing in new solutions to manage wide-scale disruptions. We aim to serve our Customers and Employees with our legendary levels of Southwest Hospitality and reliability again very soon.”
Share prices for Southwest have fallen nearly 6% over the past five trading days; the company’s stock has plummeted more than 22% since the beginning of the year. Southwest currently has 39 flights scheduled for cancellation on Friday, according to data from FlightAware.
The winter storm and subsequent cancellations occurred during the Christmas weekend. Some 54 million passengers planned to depart from airports between December 18 and January 3, constituting a 20% increase from last year, according to data from Hopper.
Southwest Chief Commercial Officer Ryan Green said during an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the airline would reimburse the thousands of stranded passengers who were forced to stay in hotels, rent cars, or purchase tickets with another carrier. Customers whose flights were disrupted can receive refunds, even though airlines are not required to reimburse passengers for delayed or canceled flights unless they are bumped from an oversold plane.
The Department of Transportation said that the agency will “examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with Southwest CEO Bob Jordan to ensure that the company will “meet its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again.”
Southwest canceled the majority of flights even as other carriers maintained most of their capacity. American Airlines and United Airlines canceled 14 and 19 flights on Thursday, according to data from FlightAware, marking less than 1% of each company’s departures.
The winter weather caused more than one million homes and businesses to lose power, especially along the East Coast, according to data from PowerOutage.US. North Carolina and Maine had the highest number of customers without power one day before Christmas Eve, with roughly 171,000 and 151,000 outages respectively. Tennessee and New York had 101,000 and 110,000 residents without power, while Connecticut had 69,000.
The severe weather also presented obstacles to major delivery services as Americans waited for last-minute Christmas presents. FedEx and UPS issued statements warning of delays, while Amazon and the United States Postal Service shuttered multiple locations.