Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan 'optimistic to be back on track before next week'

'We have some real work to do in making this right,' he says in video
Southwest Airlines flights on tarmac at John Wayne Airport in California, Dec. 27, 2022
Posted at 8:46 AM, Dec 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-28 10:34:35-05

ARLINGTON, Va. — Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said Tuesday he is "optimistic to be back on track before next week."

In a video posted on Southwest's Twitter page Tuesday night, Jordan said the airline would operate a reduced schedule for several days to "reposition our people and planes" after thousands of flights were canceled throughout the country.

Jordan blamed the winter storm for snarling the airline's "highly complex" network. He said Southwest's tools for recovering from disruptions work "99% of the time, but clearly we need to double down" on upgrading systems to avoid a repeat of this week.

Southwest issued a public apology after more than 70% of its flights were canceled on the day after Christmas – significantly more than any other airline.

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Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines both canceled about 10% of their flights, with much smaller cancellation percentages at American, Delta, United and JetBlue.

That disparity led the U.S. Department of Transportation to question whether the cancellations could have been avoided and if Southwest adhered to its customer service policies.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has criticized airlines for previous disruptions, said his agency would examine the causes of Southwest's widespread cancellations and whether the airline was meeting its legal obligations to stranded customers.

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"While we all understand that you can't control the weather, this has clearly crossed the line from what is an uncontrollable weather situation to something that is the airline's direct responsibility," Buttigieg told "NBC Nightly News."

He said Southwest should at least pay cash refunds for canceled flights and cover stranded passengers' hotel and meal costs.

RELATED: 'Christmas nightmare' starting to impact travelers' New Year's plans

In Congress, the Senate Commerce Committee also promised an investigation. Two Senate Democrats called on Southwest to provide "significant" compensation for stranded travelers, saying that the airline has the money because it plans to pay $428 million in dividends next month.

Jordan said he has spoken with Buttigieg "to continue the discussions we've been having with the DOT" and "sharing all the things that we're doing to make things right for our customers."

"We have some real work to do in making this right," Jordan, a 34-year Southwest veteran who became CEO in February, said. "For now, I want you to know that we are committed to that."