BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Southwest Airlines CEO, Bob Jordan, is speaking out for the first time.
He's apologizing for the meltdown that started over the holiday weekend with some 12,000 flights canceled since.
Now, baggage is piling up at airports and the aftermath is being investigated by the transportation secretary.
"This is as bad as it gets," said Thrifty Traveler Editor-in-Chief Kyle Potter. "I think at this point we can safely call this, certainly, the worst airline meltdown in several decades, if ever."
The airline's pilot union, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), says the travel nightmare is also because Southwest uses an outdated system causing back-ups in employee scheduling.
"It is an outdated process from the 1990s that can't keep up with our network of today," said SWAPA President Casey Murray.
"Clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what's happening right now," said Jordan.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he'll hold the airline accountable and investigate what reimbursements passengers are entitled to. But Potter says there aren't any laws to guarantee you'll be compensated.
"First and foremost, passengers in the United States have shockingly few rights," said Potter. "Airlines across the board need to view this as a wakeup call because they’ve all been trying to do too much with too little."
Potter says you should expect a full refund for your ticket if an airline cancels your flight. And Southwest has since opened up a claims process saying it will honor "reasonable requests" for other expenses.
"But exactly what reasonable means is anyone's guess," said Potter. "There is not even a legal obligation for Southwest or any airline to cover the cost of a hotel room for a passenger whose been stranded or cover the cost of meals or rental cars many Americans are renting now."
In the event your flight is canceled, Southwest says you can request a refund of your unused ticket to the original form of payment. There are also answers to more frequently asked questions here.
If you have lost baggage, Southwest says its customer service is available, but that it's experiencing abnormally high call volumes.
In a statement, Southwest writes, "Our team is utilizing its standard procedures for returning baggage during irregular operations. We will make every attempt to reconnect customers with their baggage at no cost to the customer – we will use shipping partners to return baggage, where appropriate."
You can find more information about lost or damaged baggage here.
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