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Southwest Airlines top executives absent from call with members of Congress

Southwest Airlines executives absent from call with Texan members of Congress
Southwest Airlines executives absent from call with Texan members of Congress 03:21

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM)   For the first time this week, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines accelerated its flight schedule.

Loyal customer Silvana Britton said she's relieved. "So far today has been good. We're hoping that it remains good."

Thousands of people nationwide couldn't spend Christmas with their families after their flights were cancelled, in some cases, multiple times during the past week.

Southwest's reputation with customers and some members of Congress took a public relations hit.

During a joint interview Friday, U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, Democrat of the 32nd District of Texas and U.S. Rep. Jake Ellzey, Republican of the 6th District of Texas and a former pilot for Southwest, told CBS-11 that the airline's CEO Bob Jordan and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson weren't on a Zoom call they had with airline executives Thursday. 

Allred said, "Bob was not on that call and to be honest with you, I expressed that I thought he should have been. We had multiple members of Congress on this call, multiple members of the Texas delegation. We actually want Southwest to be better because it's an incredibly important employer in the region. It's incredibly important for our economy. We need a strong Southwest."

Ellzey said, "I reached out to the government affairs team this morning and I said you need to get Bob and Andrew on the phone with everybody from Congress who's been out there."

In a statement to CBS-11, a Southwest spokesman said, "We thank the Texas Delegation for their time yesterday. Simultaneously, Bob and Andrew were participating in a media session with national reporters. Our teams will continue to engage with elected officials, and their partners, in DC in the coming days and weeks."

Southwest's CEO told Good Morning America on ABC Friday the airline will update the airline's aging infrastructure that led to this week's mass cancellations. "We already had a great plan to invest in tools and technology and processes as we always do. But there'll be a lot of lessons learned in terms of what we can do to make sure this never happens again." 

Congressmen Allred and Ellzey said they agree that U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg should make sure Southwest honors its promise to compensate impacted passengers.

When asked if they believe Congress needs to step-in and pass legislation in response to the mass cancellations, both Ellzey and Allred said they opposed such a move. 

Ellzey said, "No, absolutely not. This is a failure of one airline. We know what the problems were. They have to show that they fixed it." 

Allred said, "I agree with Jake, there's no role for us in terms of legislation to make Southwest run a better business."

They told us that's up to Southwest's customers like the Silvana Britton. "They've always had some good perks, but moving forward, I'll probably be a little more skeptical when it comes to booking with them."

As of 6:30pm Friday, Flightaware showed Southwest cancelled 43 flights nationwide or about one percent of its schedule.

Between Tuesday and Thursday of this week, the airline cancelled around 60 percent of its schedule so it could move its planes, pilots, and flight attendants to their proper places and return to normal operations.

You can watch the full interview with Congressmen Allred and Ellzey below:

Southwest Airlines executives absent from call with members of Congress 20:11
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