Southwest flight cancelations continue Wednesday

Monday and Tuesday both saw thousands of flight cancellations, with Southwest accounting for nearly three-quarters of all cancellations.

DALLAS — More than 60% of all Southwest flights on Wednesday were cleared, accounting for thousands of flights as the airline seeks to recover from a catastrophic period over Christmas weekend during which a hurricane Massive winter storm sweeps through much of the US

More than half of Southwest’s scheduled flights on Thursday were canceled as of Wednesday morning. Friday hovering around 7% cancellation.

Flights that were delayed after Christmas received increasing scrutiny as travelers wanting to go home after the holiday season were largely cancelled. Monday and Tuesday both saw thousands of flight cancellations, with Southwest accounting for nearly three-quarters of all cancellations.

The federal government said it would investigate why the company fell so far behind other carriers.

A day after most US airlines recovered from the storm, Southwest canceled an additional 2,600 flights on the East Coast late in the afternoon. According to tracking service FlightAware, those flights accounted for more than 80% of the 3,000 that were canceled nationwide on Tuesday.

And the chaos seems certain to continue. The airline also removed 2,500 flights on Wednesday and nearly 1,400 on Thursday as it tries to restore order to its disrupted schedule.

At Southwest’s main airports, customers queued in hopes of finding a seat on another flight. They describe hours of waiting for help, only to be cut off. Some have tried to rent a car to get to their destination earlier. Others found places to sleep on the floor. Luggage piled up in large piles.

Conrad Stoll, a 66-year-old retired construction worker in Missouri, had planned to fly from Kansas City to Los Angeles for his father’s 90th birthday party until his Southwest flight was canceled early the third day. He said he also won’t get to see his 88-year-old mother.

“I went there in 2019, and she looked at me and said, ‘I’m not seeing you again,'” Stoll said. lose it very quickly.’”

Stoll hopes to see his parents again in the spring, when the weather is warmer.

In a video Southwest posted late Tuesday, CEO Robert Jordan said Southwest will implement a reduced schedule for several days but hopes to “get back on track before next week.”

Jordan blamed the winter storm for damaging the airline’s “very complex” network. Southwest’s disruption recovery tools work “99% of the time, but obviously we need to double down” on system upgrades to avoid a repeat this week, he said.

“We have some real work to do to make this right,” said Jordan, a 34-year veteran of the Southwest who became CEO in February. “For now, I want you to know that we are committed to doing that.”

The problems started over the weekend and turned into a snowball on Monday, when Southwest canceled more than 70% of its flights.

That was after the worst of the storm had passed. The airline said many pilots and flight attendants had quit their jobs to carry out their flights. Leaders of unions representing Southwest pilots and flight attendants blamed outdated crew scheduling software and criticized company management.

Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said the airline had failed to fix problems that caused a similar problem in October 2021.

“There is a lot of frustration because this is preventable,” says Murray. “The airline cannot connect the crew to the plane. The airline doesn’t even know where the pilot is.”

Murray said regulators this week asked pilots at several airports to report to a central location, where they wrote down the names of the pilots present and forwarded the list to headquarters.

Lyn Montgomery, president of the Transportation Workers Association that represents Southwest flight attendants, said she and other labor leaders have repeatedly told management that the airline’s scheduling technology not not good enough.

“This is something we have seen before,” she said. “This is a very catastrophic event.”

The airline is currently attracting unwanted attention from Washington.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has criticized airlines for previous disruptions, said his agency would look into what caused Southwest’s widespread cancellations and whether the airline responded. meet legal obligations to stranded customers.

“While we all understand that you cannot control the weather, this clearly crosses the line from an uncontrollable weather situation to the direct responsibility of the airline,” Buttigieg said. with “NBC Nightly News.” He said Southwest should at least pay cash refunds for canceled flights and cover hotel and meal costs for stranded passengers.

In Congress, the Senate Commerce Committee also promised to investigate. Two Senate Democrats called on Southwest to provide “substantial” compensation to stranded travelers, saying the airline had no money because it planned to pay $428 million in dividends by May. next.

Bryce Burger and his family were supposed to be on an excursion to Mexico that departed San Diego on December 24, but their flight from Denver was canceled without notice. The flight was rebooked via Burbank, California, but that flight was canceled as they sat at the gate.

“It was horrible,” Burger said Tuesday by phone from Salt Lake City, where the family decided to drive after abandoning the cruise.

The family’s luggage was still at the Denver airport, and Burger didn’t know if he’d get a refund for the excursion because the flight to California was privately booked.

The size and severity of the storm created havoc for many airlines, although the largest number of flights canceled on Tuesday were at airports where Southwest is a major carrier. including Denver, Chicago Midway, Las Vegas, Baltimore and Dallas.

Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines both cancel about 10% of their flights, with much smaller cancellation rates at American, Delta, United and JetBlue.

Kristie Smiley planned to return home to Los Angeles until Southwest canceled her flight Tuesday, so she waited for her mother to pick her up at the Kansas City airport. Southwest couldn’t get her on another plane until Sunday, New Year’s Day.

Smiley said the airline repeatedly blamed the weather after the storm passed and did not tell passengers why the plane was unable to take off.

“They like to act like[Tuesday’s flight]is going to start until they start saying, ‘Oh, five minutes more. Oh, 10 more minutes.’ I’m not sure what’s going on with them. It seems a bit out of place,” she said.

Danielle Zanin vowed never to fly Southwest again after four days, several flights canceled, and sleeping in airports before she, her husband, and their two young children returned home to Illinois from Albuquerque, New Mexico. They stopped at airports in Denver and Phoenix and only arrived in Chicago after skipping Southwest and paying $1,400 for four American Airlines one-way tickets.

“I remember saying, ‘Oh my God, we’re getting on a plane!’ I was really shocked because I thought we would be stuck at the airport forever,” she said.

Zanin plans to ask Southwest for a partial refund of their original ticket plus a new American ticket and extra spending on car rentals, parking, Uber rides, and food — about $2,000 in total. .

“I don’t believe they’ll do much,” she said.

Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth of Kansas City, Missouri, Thalia Beaty of New York and Sophie Austin of Sacramento, California, contributed to this story. Southwest flight cancelations continue Wednesday

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