Southwest Airlines mass cancellations cause chaos

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,900 flights on Monday, disrupting holiday plans across the country, stranding passengers and causing chaos at some airports as much of the country continued to grapple with the aftermath of a historic winter storm .

The airline blamed extreme weather for the cancellations, adding in a statement that “our sincere apologies for this have only just begun. … We recognize that we have fallen short and offer our sincere apologies.”

Frustrated flyers, including those at Los Angeles International Airport, reported hours-long lines, lost luggage and unmanned flights after Southwest routes were canceled or delayed, and some said they wouldn’t wait for a flight home for days.

The low-cost carrier had canceled nearly 70 percent of its scheduled flights nationwide — about 2,905 flights, far more than any other major U.S. carrier — by Monday evening, according to tracking site FlightAware. Between all airlines, more than 3,900 domestic and international flights were canceled, the site said.

According to FlightAware data, LAX experienced 77 cancellations, or 9% of all its Southwest flights, and 125 delays. But it fared better than other airports across the country, including those in Sacramento, San Jose, Denver, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Sacramento saw 45% of its flights canceled and San Jose 29%.

The US Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon that it was “worried about the unacceptable rate of the southwest of cancellations and delays,” as well as reports of a “lack of prompt customer service.”

“The Department will examine whether the cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer care plan,” the agency said in a tweet.

As departure screens at airports across the country lit up with delays and cancellations, travelers looked for other ways to reach family and friends. Some looked into rental cars and chose to take long drives instead of waiting for them at the airport.

What was supposed to be a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Sacramento to Los Angeles on Monday for Matt Grippi turned into a six-hour drive. He was rushing to catch an international flight scheduled for Tuesday and didn’t trust Southwest to get him to LAX on time.

His only options were ladders up to 26 hours that cost thousands of dollars, he said.

“Every possible flight that I could have gotten home today has been canceled,” Grippi said. “The communication from Southwest has been awful. I’m not sure I can trust them again.”

Passengers wait in an airport terminal and a Southwest Airlines plane is parked behind the windows.

Passengers wait Monday in Terminal 1 for delayed and canceled Southwest Airlines flights at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

(Kirby Lee/Associated Press)

Monday’s cancellations follow days of other travel disruptions from a nearly unprecedented weather event that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Rio Grande. About 60% of the US population faced some type of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures fell sharply below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians. Across the country, the storm was blamed for at least 50 deaths.

Weather woes for travelers are likely to continue, with hundreds of flight cancellations and more expected after a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm – brought blizzard conditions , including strong winds and snow.

In a statement Monday, Southwest Airlines pointed to “extreme winter weather” across the country and called the disruptions “unacceptable.”

The Dallas-based airline said it was “fully equipped and ready” for the holiday weekend, but that “operational conditions” caused by severe weather that ravaged much of the country “forced changes daily in our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to get the airline back operating at capacity.”

The company said it was working to reposition flight crews to “return to normal reliability,” but indicated that flights could continue to see changes over the New Year holiday.

“On the other side of that, we will work to make things right for those we have let down, including our employees,” Southwest said.

But the president of the union that represents the company’s flight attendants told the Dallas Morning News that the “complete and utter chaos” was not due to understaffing, but to Southwest’s “archaic and outdated systems.”

On Sunday, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told the company’s employees in a message that it could take a few more days to get back on track, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As delays and cancellations piled up, call times to the airline’s customer service lines averaged more than two hours, with some callers having to wait up to four hours to speak with a representative, the company said.

A TikTok user’s post showed a video of a San Diego International Airport terminal full of passengers waiting to speak with Southwest representatives. The caption read, “San Diego airport is WILDDD. 8 hour line to talk to Southwest attendees.”

Randy Silver, 29, said he shot the video on Christmas Day, after arriving from Sacramento, where he had spent the holiday with his girlfriend’s family. Fortunately, he said, his flight was delayed only about 20 minutes leaving Sacramento. But upon arrival in San Diego, he and the other passengers were forced to sit on the tarmac for about an hour because there were no available gates where the plane could unload.

He said he was shocked by the frenzied scene that awaited him once he got off the plane, saying he had never seen the San Diego airport so busy before.

“You could definitely tell that the people who were in line waiting to talk to the flight attendants were upset, frustrated, stressed, disappointed about what was going on,” said Silver, who flies frequently for his job in technology sales. .

And while he acknowledged that other travelers had it much harder than he did, he said he also understood why some airlines would refuse to fly if it wasn’t safe to do so.

“It’s really unfortunate. [that] a once-in-a-generation type of storm happened during the biggest travel day of the year,” he said. “As much as people want to be with family and friends, I would always want to be wrong about side of safety and caution”.

All Southwest Airlines flights from San Diego were canceled Monday afternoon. Most all Southwest Airlines flights scheduled to arrive in San Diego, with the exception of one plane coming from Honolulu, were also canceled, according to the San Diego International Airport website.

Including Southwest and all other airlines, there were at least 90 canceled flights and at least 51 delayed flights Monday at San Diego International Airport, representing about 42 percent of all flights on the busy travel day , according to FlightAware.

Maya Polon was one of the few Southwest customers to leave Hollywood Burbank Airport on Monday after her original flight on Sunday was canceled twice. He spent three hours at the airport trying to get a new flight after the Southwest website and app failed.

“The only way to get rebooked was to go to the airport and talk to a human,” Polon, 28, said.

Meanwhile, her mother, Emily Payne, was on hold with Southwest for four hours, trying to help her. Polon got a flight back to Sacramento at 2 p.m., but some of his fellow passengers were told they wouldn’t get a flight home until at least Wednesday, he said.

Polon said people at the scene were angry and police became involved in an altercation between a passenger and Southwest staff.

The Associated Press and the San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *