US investigating December flight cancellations at Southwest

DALLAS (AP) — The U.S. Department of Transportation said Wednesday it is investigating whether Southwest Airlines misled customers by knowingly scheduling more flights for late December than it could actually handle.

The department said that scheduling too many flights would be considered an unfair and deceptive practice under federal law.

“DOT is in the early phase of a rigorous and comprehensive investigation into the Southwest Airlines holiday debacle that stranded millions,” the department said in a statement.

The Department of Transportation added that it will hold Southwest liable if the airline fails to comply with federal rules on refunds and reimbursing customers for expenses when flights are cancelled. The agency said it will “use the full extent of its investigative and enforcement power” to protect consumers.

Southwest said its vacation program “was carefully designed” with “a strong plan for operating it and extensive staffing.”