(CNN) — Southwest Airways says it is poised to renew regular schedules on Friday after a tumultuous eight-day meltdown that left a whole bunch of hundreds of passengers delayed or stranded and prompted its executives to make apologies to the driving public and authorities officers.

In a press release launched Thursday — following one other bruising day through which an extra 2,300 flights had been canceled and authorities officers referred to as for the airline to account for its shortcomings — Southwest stated it hoped for minimal disruptions over the New Yr’s weekend.

“We’re inspired by the progress we have made to realign crew, their schedules, and our fleet,” it stated. “With one other vacation weekend stuffed with essential connections for our valued prospects and workers, we’re wanting to return to a state of normalcy.

The assertion got here with extra contrition from the airline.

“We all know even our deepest apologies — to our prospects, to our workers, and to all affected via this disruption — solely go thus far,” the assertion learn.

“We have arrange a web page at Southwest.com/traveldisruption for purchasers to submit refund and reimbursement requests for meals, lodge, and alternate transportation; in addition to to attach prospects to their baggage.”

Friday’s cancellation record is rather a lot shorter

FlightAware, the flight monitoring service, confirmed that solely 57 Southwest Friday flights have been canceled as of two:45 p.m. ET Thursday — which seems to again up Southwest’s declare that ordinary providers can be kind of resumed tomorrow.

The airline has additionally begun notifying prospects that it expects to fly a “full schedule” on Friday, after greater than per week of large flight disruptions.

An e-mail to a passenger scheduled to fly Southwest on Friday learn: “Whereas we have now lately skilled operational challenges, we count on to renew a full schedule of flights with minimal disruptions in your day of journey.”

Regrets and repairs

Earlier than the most recent announcement, the airline’s chief industrial officer, Ryan Inexperienced, had supplied his regrets over the collapse of providers, promising to rebuild buyer relations which have sunk to all-time low through the busy vacation journey interval.

“My private apology is step one of constructing issues proper after many plans modified and experiences fell wanting your expectations of us,” Inexperienced stated in a video issued Thursday.

“We’re persevering with to work to make this as much as you, and you will proceed to listen to about that quickly. However for now, we’re targeted on restoring the reliability and degree of buyer expertise we count on of ourselves, and also you count on of us.”

His remarks, which observe earlier apologies from airline CEO Bob Jordan, got here as US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made his personal scathing evaluation Southwest’s troubles, calling the state of affairs a whole “meltdown.”

“You have obtained an organization right here that is obtained lots of cleansing as much as do,” he stated.

What’s taking place in the present day

A traveler seems at baggage within the baggage declare space contained in the Southwest Airways terminal at St. Louis Lambert Worldwide Airport on Wednesday.

Jeff Roberson/AP

Whereas Friday might carry much-needed aid to the state of affairs, Thursday has nonetheless been a difficult day.

As of two:45 p.m. ET Thursday, there have been nearly 2,500 US flights canceled for the day, and nearly 2,400 belonged to Southwest. Which means 95% of all canceled US flights belonged to Southwest on Thursday.

Probably the most affected airports had been a few of the identical ones slammed the toughest earlier this week: Denver Worldwide, Chicago Halfway, Harry Reid Worldwide in Las Vegas, Dallas Love Subject, Nashville Worldwide and Baltimore/Washington Worldwide.

Some passengers had been taking all of this in stride.

A number of folks at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Worldwide Airport spoke to CNN’s Nick Valencia on Thursday about their journey experiences with Southwest this vacation season.

“I imply, it is simply par for the course. That is flight journey, everybody’s making an attempt to get in every single place on the identical time. Sadly, Southwest took the brunt of this yr’s journey unlucky state of affairs,” Roderic Hister informed CNN.

When requested what he thought concerning the lack of strains on the Southwest counters on the airport, Hister stated: “Perhaps speaks to the enhancements that they are making an attempt to make, as a result of there’s not lengthy strains, folks aren’t right here complaining. So, possibly you recognize, the efforts to redeem themselves are working.”

Winston Williams, standing close to Hister, stated he intends to nonetheless use the airline sooner or later.

“I like Southwest. I imply, the baggage are free,” Williams stated.

Broken popularity

Elaine Chao, who served as secretary of transportation through the Trump administration, described the Southwest Airways breakdown as “a failure of unbelievable proportions.”

She informed CNN it was “an ideal storm of all of the issues which have been occurring with the corporate. It will take them a really very long time” to rebuild belief with customers, she added.

Phil Dengler, co-founder of the journey recommendation web site The Vacationer, concurs.

“It will take a very long time for Southwest Airways to earn again public belief. Whereas the intense climate affected different airways, Southwest skilled a real meltdown on the worst attainable time,” he stated Thursday in an e mail to CNN Journey.

“A big portion of Individuals solely fly as soon as per yr, they usually desire a problem-free expertise. I consider many individuals are going to pause when reserving their subsequent flight they usually see Southwest Airways as the most cost effective possibility” Dengler stated.

“Whereas the low costs are engaging, this meltdown goes to trigger many vacationers to discover different low-cost choices.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot weighed in Thursday, additionally wanting to make sure Southwest retains its reimbursement guarantees.

“I am happy to share that they [senior leadership] have assured me Southwest will probably be again at near-normal flight operations by tomorrow, Friday, at each Halfway and O’Hare airports,” she stated in a press release.

“I urged Southwest management to raised talk what they’re providing with their prospects. That features affordable reimbursement for lodges, meals, automobile leases, and flights on competitor airways for passengers who had been booked on any Southwest flight canceled since Christmas Eve,” Lightfoot stated.

A postponed marriage ceremony

Bride-to-be Katie Demko talks to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins about lacking her marriage ceremony in Belize after Southwest airways canceled hundreds of flights.

Amongst these affected was bride-to-be Katie Demeko from St. Louis, who needed to postpone her marriage ceremony after her Southwest flight to Belize was canceled on the final minute.

“We went to the the airport, our flight was on time, and once we had been on the brink of board, the captain got here out, gave a speech and mainly informed us the flight was canceled,” she informed CNN.

“At that time I had lots of my household with me, I used to be in shock, We tried to rebook, and there was nothing.”

She stated Southwest supplied to rebook her on a January 2 flight, which might’ve been three days too late. Whereas the marriage is now postponed, she and her household and mates have misplaced cash on meals and lodging.

“We’re simply devastated,” she stated.

Robust stats for Southwest

Travelers tag their bags at Orlando International Airport on December 28, 2022.

Vacationers tag their luggage at Orlando Worldwide Airport on December 28, 2022.

Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Company/Getty Photos

In all, Southwest has canceled roughly 15,750 flights since winter climate started disrupting air journey on December 22. (That determine consists of the small quantity flights already canceled for Friday.)

Different US airways flying in the identical climate circumstances recovered days earlier from the storm disruptions that slammed a lot of the Decrease 48 within the days main as much as Christmas.

In response to the state of affairs, American Airways and United Airways capped costs on some routes served by Southwest Airways to make their flights extra accessible to stranded passengers.

Southwest doesn’t have interline agreements with different carriers that might permit its brokers to rebook passengers on a distinct airline, leaving vacationers in command of exploring different choices.

‘This will’t occur once more’

Southwest Airways CEO Bob Jordan launched an apology to stranded vacationers because the beleaguered airline continues to grapple with what US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has known as a whole “meltdown” of the system. In all, Southwest has canceled greater than 15,700 flights since winter climate started disrupting air journey on December 22.

Buttigieg says he spoke on to Jordan earlier this week concerning the hundreds of flights which have been canceled this week.

“Their system actually has fully melted down,” Buttigieg informed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I made clear that our division will probably be holding them accountable for his or her tasks to prospects, each to get them via this example and to ensure that this could’t occur once more.”

These tasks embody offering meal vouchers and lodge lodging for passengers whose flights had been disrupted “because of Southwest’s choices and actions,” a Division of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson stated.

US airways are additionally required to supply money refunds to passengers whose flights had been canceled and opted to not journey, the DOT stated.

Buttigieg informed CNN the Division of Transportation is ready to pursue fines in opposition to Southwest if there may be proof that the corporate has failed to fulfill its authorized obligations, however he added that the division will probably be taking a more in-depth take a look at constant customer support issues on the airline.

The secretary stated he informed CEO Jordan that he expects Southwest to proactively provide refunds and expense reimbursement to affected passengers with out them having to ask.

What prospects ought to do

Dengler cautions to proceed fastidiously concerning refunds.

“Southwest says, ‘We are going to honor affordable requests for reimbursement for meals, lodge, and alternate transportation,’ ” he stated.

“Whereas Southwest is being imprecise on how a lot they’ll reimburse, I’d keep away from any costly lodges or eating places. Use Google Motels to search out close by lodges close to the airport the place you might be stranded.”

And he additionally cautions about piling up an enormous tab.

“Do just a few Google searches comparable to ‘free issues to do close to me.’ I doubt Southwest goes to reimburse excursions or different paid actions, so I’d not guide any costly excursions that you simply can’t afford.”

CNN’s Andy Rose, Andi Babineau, Adrienne Broaddus, Dave Alsap, Nick Valencia, Devon Sayers, David Goldman, Leslie Perrot, Carlos Suarez and Ross Levitt contributed to this story.


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