Mass Southwest Airlines cancellations cause chaos

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

The airline blamed extreme weather conditions for the cancellations, adding in a statement “our sincere apologies for this are just beginning. … We recognize that we have not been up to the task and we sincerely apologize.

Frustrated travelers, including those at Los Angeles International Airport, reported hour-long queues, lost luggage and unmanned flights after Southwest routes were canceled or delayed – some told not to expect a return flight for days.

The low-cost carrier had canceled nearly 70% of its scheduled flights nationwide – some 2,905 flights, far more than any other major US carrier – as of Monday night, according to tracking site FlightAware. Among all carriers, more than 3,900 domestic and international flights have been canceled, according to the site.

According to data from FlightAware, LAX suffered 77 cancellations, or 9% of all its southwestbound flights, and 125 delays. But it fared better than other airports in 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 U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon that it was “concerned about Southwest’s unacceptable rate cancellations and delays”, as well as reports of a “lack of prompt customer service”.

“The Department will review whether the cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is adhering to its customer service 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 rushed to hire cars, choosing to take long drives instead of waiting at the airport.

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

His only options were layovers as long as 26 hours costing thousands of dollars, he said.

“All possible flights I could have taken today to return home have been cancelled,” Grippi said. “Communication from the South West has been horrible. I’m not sure I can trust them again.

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

(Kirby Lee/Associated Press)

Monday’s cancellations follow days of other travel disruptions due to a near-unprecedented weather event that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Rio Grande. About 60% of the US population faced some kind of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures dropped significantly below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to Appalachia. Nationwide, the storm has been blamed for at least 50 deaths.

Traveler weather issues are set to continue, with hundreds of flight cancellations already and more expected after a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very rapidly during a heavy storm – caused blizzard conditions including high winds and snow.

In A declaration On Monday, Southwest Airlines highlighted “extreme winter weather” across the country and called the disruptions “unacceptable.”

The Dallas-based airline said it was “full and prepared” for the holiday weekend, but “operational conditions” caused by inclement weather sweeping across most of the country “have forced changes daily to our flight schedule at a volume and scale yet has the tools our teams use to restore the airline to full capacity.

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

“On the other hand, 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 a lack of staff, but rather to Southwest’s ‘archaic and outdated systems’. .

On Sunday, Southwest Chief Executive Bob Jordan told company employees in a message that it might take a few more days to get back on track, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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

A TikTok user’s post showed video of a San Diego International Airport terminal teeming with passengers waiting to speak with Southwest representatives. The caption read: “San Diego airport is WILDDD. 8 o’clock line to speak to Southwest attendants.

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

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

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

And while he acknowledges that other travelers have had a much harder time than him, he said he also understands why some airlines refuse to fly if it’s not safe to do so.

“It’s really a pity [that] a once-in-a-generation type of storm happened on the biggest travel day of the year,” he said. “Even though people want to be with family and friends, I would still err on the side of safety and caution.”

All Southwest Airlines flights out of San Diego were canceled late Monday afternoon. The majority of all Southwest Airlines flights scheduled to arrive in San Diego, except for one plane from Honolulu, have also been 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, accounting for about 42% of all flights on the travel day. charged, according to FlightAware.

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

“The only way to get a new reservation 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 managed to get a flight back to Sacramento at 2 p.m., but some of her hopeful fellow travelers were told they wouldn’t get a flight back until at least Wednesday, she said. declared.

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

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

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