The winter storm that disrupted thousands of travel plans over the weekend has created an epic backlog of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines, leaving thousands of families stranded, some waiting for days to fly home.
Two-thirds of Southwest’s flights had been canceled as of Monday afternoon, according to the flight tracking website. informed flight — far more than any other airline. With some 2,700 Southwest flights cancelled, another 700 were delayed Monday, FlightAware found.
On Monday afternoon, the board at Dallas Love Field, the airline’s main hub, showed that all arrivals had been canceled, according to reporter Kelly Laco.
The airline canceled more than 1,600 flights on Sunday and 1,300 each day last week on Thursday and Friday.
The federal Department of Transportation said Monday it would investigate the collapse and said it was “concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays, as well as the lack of adequate support for customers who experience a cancellation or delay.” .
“As more information becomes available, the Department will closely examine whether the cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan, as well as all other applicable DOT rules,” the department said in a statement. .
Traveler Michael Bauzon and his family planned to fly out of Orlando International Airport on Friday to return home to Indianapolis in time for Christmas Sunday. Instead, the four spent the holiday at a hotel after their flight was cancelled, Bauzon told CBS affiliate WKMG, and returned to the airport on Monday, where they continued to wait.
“This morning we got here at 4:30 for a 7:05 flight, we looked it up, and oh, it had just been cancelled,” he said, pointing to a line that meanders in front of the Southwest service counter. “It’s a four to five hour line … before they can get us on a flight, if they can get us on a flight,” he said.
Widespread storm, outdated technology
In a statement Monday that began with “sincere apologies,” Southwest said its geography made it “exceptionally” vulnerable to the storm, with half the airports it flies into impacted by winter weather.
“We were fully staffed and prepared for the upcoming holiday weekend as severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest airline in 23 of the top 25 US travel markets. has the tools our teams use to get the airline back operating at full capacity,” said declaration said.
“We anticipate additional changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the upcoming New Year’s holiday travel period,” he said.
The company also blames a lack of technology. “Part of what we are suffering from is the lack of tools. We have talked a lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do it,” CEO Bob Jordan said Sunday in an internal message that was reported by various outlets. points of sale and the union of flight attendants.
Stuck phone lines, systems
Southwest steered customers away from congested phone lines, saying it was experiencing “system problems” amid high demand.
Spokesman Chris Perry said the airline’s online reservation and check-in systems were still working, but were also clogged due to “abnormally high” volumes of traffic on its site. “We are reaccommodating as many Clients as possible based on available space,” he told CBS News.
While Southwest blamed technology problems, the flight attendants union, Transit Workers Union 556, accused the airline of contributing to the problem by underinvesting in technology for years.
“Lack of technology has left the airline reliant on manual solutions and personal phone calls, leaving flight attendants on hold with Southwest Airlines for up to 17 hours at a time simply to be released to go 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 rerouting and rescheduling are understood to be part of the job in the airline industry, the massive scale of failure in recent days points to a long-term avoidance of responsibility to invest in and implement technology that could help solve many of the problems that affect both flight attendants and passengers.”
The union and the airline have been in contract negotiations for four years.
— With information from Zel Elvi, Kathryn Krupnik, and Kris Van Cleave.