The winter storm that disrupted travel plans over the weekend and created an epic backlog of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines has left the carrier’s passengers ‘beyond frustrated’ as. Thousands of families have been stranded, waiting days to board planes.
Southwest Dallas Love Field customers expressed disappointment, frustration and anger on Monday after facing multiple flight delays and cancellations since before Christmas.
Talia Jones, a Southwest Air customer, told CBS DFW she was “beyond frustrated and hurt because I can’t see my dad. So yeah, that’s very disappointing.”
As of 5 a.m. ET Tuesday, Southwest was responsible for an overwhelming majority of U.S. cancellations for the new day, according to the flight tracking website. FlightAware.com: 2,495 out of 2,809 for all carriers.
Two-thirds of Southwest’s flights had been canceled by Monday afternoon, according to FlightAware.
On Monday afternoon, Dallas Love Field’s board of directors showed that every finish had been canceled, according to reporter Kelly Laco.
At Chicago’s Midway International Airport — where Southwest is the main carrier — wait times were long and patience was at an all-time low Monday night,.
The situation was described by one traveler as nothing short of a mess. Along with long queues taking up space, hundreds and hundreds of bags were waiting to be claimed as cancellations and delays kept piling up.
“It’s been hell,” said Denzil Smothers, whose flight was canceled.
The federal Department of Transportation said on Monday it would investigate the collapse, saying it was “concerned about the disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays by Southwest Airlines as well as the failure to properly support customers experiencing cancellations. or delay”.
“As more information becomes available, the department will closely review whether the cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other relevant DOT rules,” said the department in a statement.
Traveler Michael Bauzon and his family had planned to leave Orlando International Airport on Friday to return home to Indianapolis in time for Christmas on Sunday. Instead, the four spent the vacation at a hotel after their flight was canceled, Bauzon told CBS affiliate WKMG, and were back at the airport on Monday – where they continued to wait.
“This morning we got here at 4:30 a.m. for a 7:05 a.m. flight, we looked at it, and oh, it had just been cancelled,” he said, pointing to a snaking line in front of the service counter at the South West. “It’s a four to five hour queue… before they can get us on a flight – if they can get us on a flight,” he said.
Widespread storm, outdated technology
In a Monday statement that opened with a “sincere apology,” Southwest said its geography made it “particularly” vulnerable to the storm, with half of the airports it flies to affected by winter conditions.
“We were full and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 U.S. travel markets. This forced changes daily to our flight schedule at a volume and scale that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at full capacity,” the statement said.
“We expect further changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the next New Year holiday travel period,” he noted.
The company also blames a lack of technology. “Part of what we’re suffering from is a lack of tools. We’ve talked a lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that,” CEO Bob Jordan said in an internal message Sunday reported by multiple outlets. . outlets and the flight attendants’ union.
Blocked telephone lines, systems
Southwest directed customers away from blocked phone lines, noting that it was experiencing “system problems” in a context of high demand.
Spokesman Chris Perry said the airline’s online reservation and check-in systems were still working, but were also blocked due to “abnormally high” traffic volumes on their site. “We are welcoming back as many customers as possible based on available space,” he told CBS News.
While Southwest blamed technology issues, the flight attendants’ union, Transit Workers Union 556, accused the airline of contributing to the problem by underinvesting in technology for years.
“The lack of technology has left the airline to rely on manual solutions and personal phone calls, leaving flight attendants on hold with Southwest Airlines for up to 5 p.m. at a time just to be released to return home after their trip, or while trying to secure a hotel room or find out where their next trip will be,” the union said in a statement. “While reroutings and reschedulings are considered part of the job in the airline industry, the massive scale of failure in recent days indicates a lack of accountability for many years to invest and implement technology that could help solve many of the problems plaguing flight attendants and passengers alike.”
The union and the airline have been in contract negotiations for four years.
— With reporting by Zel Elvi, Kathryn Krupnik, Kris Van Cleave and Brian Dakss.