Southwest Airlines said in a statement Monday that travel disruptions were “unacceptable” and that its network was behind due to the winter storm that battered parts of the country with snow, ice and high winds for much of last week. “Our sincere apologies for this are just beginning,” the company said, adding that it was working to address the disruptions by “rebalancing the airline and repositioning” crews.
Late Monday and into Tuesday morning, Southwest was in damage control mode, responding to angry and frustrated customers on Twitter. The The airline repeatedly apologized for the cancellations and offered support via direct messages, which didn’t appease everyone. The US Department of Transportation he said in a statement on Monday that it would look into the Southwest issue, adding that it was concerned about the airline’s “unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays” and reports of poor customer service.
Southwest’s network is organized in what is known as a point-to-point system, according to David Vernon, an airline analyst at financial firm Sanford C. Bernstein. This type of system allows greater use of aircraft in normal times, but can cause negative cascading effects when things go wrong.
No region or airport suffered the brunt of the cancellations. As of Tuesday morning, more than 150 flights originating at Denver International Airport, or about 17 percent of its outbound traffic, were canceled, and more than 115 flights, or about 38 percent, were canceled from Chicago Midway International. More than 100 flights were also canceled at Harry Reid International in Las Vegas, and similar numbers were reported at Baltimore-Washington International, Dallas Love Field in Texas and Nashville International in Tennessee.
It’s been nearly a week since the winter storm began wreaking havoc on millions of people who relied on airlines to get them from point A to B. The number of canceled flights began to mount last Thursday, when airlines canceled more than 2,600 of them. The next day, nearly 6,000, or about a quarter of all US flights, were canceled across the country. On Saturday, Christmas Eve, nearly 3,500 flights were canceled and slightly fewer, around 3,200, were cut from Christmas Day schedules.