Republican lawmaker Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) called for a federal investigation into the generous COVID bailout that Southwest Airlines received from Congress following a logistical meltdown that has left thousands of Americans abandoned at airports through the holidays.
Echoing the frustration of stranded travelers, Wenstrup questioned what Southwest had done with billions in taxpayer money in light of the travel fiasco.
Calls for Southwest probe
Southwest cancelled another 2,300 flights Thursday, days after other airlines had recovered from a historic winter storm that disrupted travel and sent temperatures plunging below zero through the Christmas weekend.
Wenstrup told Fox News Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast that a federal probe is warranted into the $7 billion in COVID relief money that Southwest has received from Congress since 2020, noting, “a lot of money comes from taxpayers for these airlines to stay afloat and to keep America moving.”
“Where did that money go? And I know it’s pandemic-related. And they say that was to keep themselves afloat, but that’s a lot of money, and Southwest, like you just said, 7 billion themselves since 2020. So, what were you doing with it?” he asked.
“The storm probably had something to do with this,” he continued. “But we’ve got to take some action in Congress and get some oversight and investigate some of this. The U.S. Department of Transportation needs to investigate. But so do we.”
There has been a bi-partisan uproar in Washington over the cancellations, with the Biden administration pledging to hold Southwest “accountable.”
Embattled Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has opened an investigation into the matter, while calling for impacted passengers to be reimbursed.
“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.
But Buttigieg has faced criticism as well from both sides of the aisle.
Far-left Democrat Nina Turner said the former small-town mayor could have prevented the crisis but was too focused on his personal ambitions.
“What’s happening with the railroads, airlines & the supply chain is a result of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President,” she tweeted Tuesday. “Secretary Buttigieg is a prime example of failing up.”
Southwest has apologized for the historic disruptions.
“We have some real work to do in making this right,” CEO Robert Jordan said.