DOT To Investigate U.S. Airways, Comair Troubles

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The airlines had a rough holiday weekend, coping with winter storms, computer crashes, and staff shortages, and now they're facing the fallout, including a federal investigation. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta wants to know why regional airline Comair, a subsidiary of Delta, didn't have a backup plan when its scheduling software crashed over the weekend, grounding about 1,100 flights and stranding thousands of passengers. Mineta also wants the investigation to come up with an explanation for US Airways' cancellation of hundreds of flights over the same long weekend, when about triple the usual number of flight attendants, baggage handlers and ramp workers called in sick. "It is important that the Department and the traveling public understand what happened, why it happened, and whether the carriers properly planned for the holiday travel period and responded appropriately to consumer needs in the aftermath," Mineta said. Union officials said the sick calls at US Airways were not an organized job action. Yesterday, Comair was working to get back to a full schedule, and is already working to replace the old computer system, which it said should take a few months.