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Southwest says it plans to return to 'normal operations' Friday

The beleaguered airline has canceled thousands of flights this week, leaving customers frustrated and scrambling to find alternative modes of travel.

Beleaguered Southwest Airlines plans to return to normal operations Friday with minimal disruptions, it said in a statement.

“While Southwest continues to operate roughly one third of its schedule for Thursday, Dec. 29, we plan to return to normal operations with minimal disruptions on Friday, Dec. 30,” the statement said.

"We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign crew, their schedules, and our fleet. With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued customers and employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy."

The company also apologized to its customers and employees.

"We know even our deepest apologies — to our customers, to our employees, and to all affected through this disruption — only go so far."

The airline has said it would fly just one-third of its schedule in the travel-heavy days after Christmas. Thousands of flights have been canceled this week, frustrating customers who have had to scramble to find new flights and alternative forms of travel.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday his department will be looking into the Southwest Airlines scheduling system after thousands of canceled flights enraged passengers throughout the country.

Southwest canceled 70% of its flight schedule Monday and Tuesday.

Southwest canceled more than 2,500 flights Wednesday — 61% of its flights — according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. The airline canceled more than 2,300 flights Thursday, representing 58% of its flight schedule.

“This has clearly crossed the line from what’s an uncontrollable weather situation to something that is the airline’s direct responsibility,” Buttigieg said Tuesday in an interview on “NBC Nightly News.”

Buttigieg said that Southwest has pledged to take care of affected customers and that the Transportation Department will hold the airline accountable.

“At a minimum, there need to be cash refunds for the canceled flights, and they need to be taking care of passengers where they got stuck — with meals, with hotels, with compensation,” Buttigieg said.