Biden to hold airlines accountable after flight cancellations

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said his administration will hold airlines accountable after nationwide flight cancellations following an extreme winter storm this past week.

“Thousands of flights nationwide have been canceled around the holidays. Our Administration is working to ensure airlines are held accountable,” Biden wrote in a tweet on Tuesday. “If you’ve been affected by cancellations, go to @USDOT’s dashboard to see if you’re entitled to compensation.”

Thousands of flights were canceled this week, with many being from Southwest Airlines.

About 4,000 domestic U.S. flights were canceled Monday, according to the tracking website FlightAware, which tracks flight status in real time. 

More than 2,900 Southwest flights were canceled Monday, more than 2,500 flights were canceled Tuesday, and nearly 2,500 are canceled for Wednesday, according to FlightAware.

The Department of Transportation said Tuesday that it would look into the flight cancellations that left thousands stranded at airports.

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the department wrote in a tweet. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

A Senate committee also said that it will investigate the causes of the cancellations at Southwest Airlines.

“The Committee will be looking into the causes of these disruptions and its impact to consumers,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said in a statement.

“Many airlines fail to adequately communicate with consumers during flight cancellations. Consumers deserve strong protections, including an updated consumer refund rule,” Cantwell added.

Several members of Congress have also called on Southwest Airlines to provide additional compensation for the cancellations.

In a joint statement, Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that Southwest cannot avoid compensating passengers by claiming these flight cancellations were caused by recent winter storms as executives from the airline have said the cancellations were largely part of a failure of its internal system.

“For those travelers whose holidays have been ruined, there is no real way for Southwest to make this right,” the senators said in a statement. “But the company can start by fairly compensating passengers whose flights were canceled, including not only rebooked tickets, ticket refunds, and hotel, meal, and transportation reimbursement, but significant monetary compensation for the disruption to their holiday plans.”

Contributing: Eve Chen, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

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