Southwest is canceling extra flights as competing airways cap fares for stranded passengers

Travelers at Baltimore Washington International Airport are grappling with the impact of Southwest Airlines’ December 27, 2022 cancellation of more than 12,000 flights around the Christmas holiday weekend across the country and in Baltimore, Maryland.

Michael McCoy | Reuters

Southwest Airlines cut another 2,500 flights on Wednesday, prompting more frustrated customers to seek seats on other airlines.

The Dallas-based airline’s cuts totaled 60% of its flight schedule, marking another day of disruptions even as weather conditions and operations at other airlines improved.

Airlines have canceled thousands of flights since last week as severe winter weather disrupted vacation travel across the United States, but the outsized disruptions in the Southwest have put the Biden administration and lawmakers under scrutiny. Southwest has credited its performance to its internal systems.

To help stranded travelers, Delta Airlines said on Wednesday that it was “capping tariffs in all South West markets” and that the tariffs are valid through Saturday. American Airlines said it capped fares in “cities hit hard by cancellations,” and United said it capped fares in “select cities.”

The airlines did not provide any further information on the upper limits. The moves came after Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged other airlines to cap fares.

Southwest said it would reimburse travelers for “reasonable” hotel, meal and alternative transportation expenses if customers submit receipts. Earlier this week, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told employees the airline would only fly about a third of its schedule for several days in an attempt to resume operations.

Southwest’s stock fell more than its peers for the second straight day.

Frustration for travelers trying to find their homes was compounded by shortages of spare seats on other airlines during the busy holiday season.

Airlines will routinely cap last-minute fares, which are generally high and often come with limited seating, during emergencies like hurricanes to allow travelers to evacuate.

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