The meltdown at Southwest Airlines continued into Thursday with another round of cancellations and delays across the United States, leaving more passengers stranded and thousands of bags lost days after a winter storm pummeled large swaths of the U.S.
The latest tally from flight-tracker FlightAware shows that Southwest had canceled 2364 flights (around 58 percent of the total) and delayed 104 flights as of 1:00 p.m. ET.
CEO Bob Jordan on Tuesday said the disruptions could continue for another few days, and that he was optimistic that the airline would be back on track before next week. However, there was little improvement on Thursday from the day before, when Southwest canceled around 61 percent of flights. Other U.S. airlines, meanwhile, have largely returned to normal.
As of Monday, Southwest claimed it was prepared for the holiday weekend.
"We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S.," the company said in a statement. "These operational conditions forced daily changes of an unprecedented volume and magnitude to our flight schedule and the tools our teams use to recover the airline remain at capacity."
One day later, Jordan was more upfront about the need for operational changes, noting that "clearly, we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what's happening right now."
The autopsies of the ongoing crisis are still underway, but there is a growing consensus that some combination of issues related to the airline's scheduling system and IT system were responsible. The U.S. Transportation Department is investigating the problems in real-time, and Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been vocal in his criticisms of the airline's customer service response.
Yet Buttigieg, in turn, has also received critiques about his handling of the Southwest Airlines debacle.
“We had high hopes for him, and I think, quite frankly, he has been a tremendous disappointment. He could be doing much more, and for whatever reason he has chosen not to use the authority that he clearly has,” William McGee, senior fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project and a former flight dispatcher, told The Hill.