U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, released the below statement ahead of tomorrow’s hearing titled “Strengthening Airline Operations and Consumer Protections.” Sen. Cantwell will question Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson about the upheaval at the airline over the 2022 holiday season that resulted in 16,700 canceled flights and millions of stranded passengers. The Committee will also hear testimony from representatives from Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, Flyers’ Rights and Airlines for America.
Sen. Cantwell stated:
“The American people have a lot of questions about the Southwest debacle in December that left passengers stranded or unable to be with loved ones over the holidays. We’re going to ask for answers to those questions. I’m interested in hearing the pilot's testimony that this debacle could have been avoided if Southwest had made investments sooner.
“We know this won’t be the last snowstorm to hit this country. So let's figure why Southwest’s operations collapsed and what needs to change so this never happens again on Southwest or any other airline.
“The Senate Commerce Committee will soon begin working on legislation to reauthorize the FAA. We’ll be deciding how to strengthen protections for consumers, and what promises we need the airlines to make and keep about how they operate our nation’s air passenger system. What we learn at this hearing will greatly inform what reforms we put in place.”
Yesterday, Sen. Cantwell held a virtual roundtable with constituents from Washington state who were impacted by Southwest’s failure. The participants shared a range of experiences that included missed holiday celebrations with family members, thousands of dollars spent out-of-pocket, and minimal communication from the airline. Video of that listening session is available HERE, audio HERE, and a full transcript HERE.