Thousands of Southwest Airlines travelers were stranded at airports across the country Tuesday morning as the aftermath of a powerful winter storm that battered much of the nation continued to cancel hundreds of flights and disrupt travel plans for travelers. passengers during the holidays.
Airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights Tuesday morning, most of them, 2,526 flights, with Southwest Airlines, according to FlightAware flight tracking website.
In California, hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled through the end of the week, making up much of Southwest’s schedule.
Passengers sat on the curb at Los Angeles International Airport and dozens of flyers lined the car rental counter at Hollywood Burbank Airport, with nearly 100 more waiting inside and outside the facility.
Southwest Chief Executive Bob Jordan told the Wall Street Journal that the airline planned to operate at about a third of normal capacity as it tries to regroup and get the schedule back on track.
“This is the largest scale event I have ever seen,” he said.
All flights were shown as unavailable on the company’s website on Tuesday morning. In an email, Southwest spokesman Chris Perry said inventory to book travel is “very low” but flights are still operational.
As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, at least 60 flights originating from Los Angeles International Airport have been canceled and at least 55 have been delayed.
Andy Robinson waited in line at the Southwest terminal to get a hotel voucher after his flight back to Denver was cancelled. Robinson, who had been in Los Angeles with his family to watch the Denver Broncos play the Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Christmas Day, managed to catch a flight home Thursday but is hampered by cancellations and other delays.
“I’m trying to see it in a positive way. I’m in California,” said Robinson, whose relative suggested they drive to Denver. “I’m in flip flops.”
Elsewhere in Southern California, 18 outbound Southwest flights, or two-thirds of its services, were canceled at the Hollywood Burbank airport Tuesday, according to mobile flight tracker Flightview. John Wayne Airport in Orange County had 51 departing Southwest flights canceled and seven delayed Tuesday morning, while San Diego experienced some of the biggest disruptions, with 89 departing Southwest flights canceled and 28 delayed. . according to FlightAware.
Despite paying $60 for an early check-in, Roger and Jane Truesdale were among hundreds of passengers in Burbank Tuesday whose flights were canceled and told the earliest they could fly was Saturday.
But the Estes Park, Colo., couple, in town to visit their son for the holidays, didn’t pack enough medication to last the week. They were looking at other airlines, they said, noting that renting a car or taking a bus was not an option.
“It’s not ideal,” said Roger Truesdale, 77, “but we have to go home and hopefully we’ll find a good replacement.”
Southwest Airlines blamed the cancellations on a catastrophic winter storm that tore through the northern half of the country over the holiday weekend, adding in a statement that “our sincerest apologies for this are just beginning. … We recognize that we fell short and sincerely apologize.”
Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Southwest should not be able to claim that the flight cancellations were caused by recent winter storms, leaving them would avoid reimbursing travelers.
Compensation should not only include booked flights, refunds, hotel, food and transportation, but also “significant monetary compensation for the disruption of your vacation plans,” the two senators said in a statement.
Southwest’s collapse reached the Oval Office, with President Biden tweeting that airlines would be held accountable and directing aggrieved travelers to the Department of Transportation’s website to determine if they are entitled to compensation.
“Our Administration is working to ensure airlines are held accountable,” Biden tweeted Tuesday.
The US Department of Transportation also said it was concerned about the “unacceptable” rate of cancellations and would investigate whether the cancellations were controllable.
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Tuesday the committee will examine the causes of the disruptions and their impact on consumers.
“The issues at Southwest Airlines in recent days go beyond the weather,” Cantwell said in a statement. “Many airlines do not adequately communicate with consumers during flight cancellations. Consumers deserve strong protections, including an updated consumer refund rule.”
After driving five hours from Oakland to Los Angeles on Monday after her flight was cancelled, Kate Schelter waited for hours in line at the Southwest terminal at LAX Tuesday morning to try to get a refund and retrieve her luggage. his family. Her luggage was flown to Los Angeles even though she and her children, ages 9 and 12, were unable to catch a flight.
But Schelter asked for a refund: A Southwest Airlines ticket agent said they couldn’t help her and offered her travel coupons instead. “I’m going to go ahead with my vacation now and probably spend hours on hold on the phone with customer service trying to rectify this,” Schelter said.
irate and weary travelers flooded southwest on Twitter with reports of waiting in long lines which stretched out from the airport terminals, lost luggage that in some cases traveled forward despite canceled flights or stacked unclaimed for days, wait on customer service calls for hours or disconnect repeatedlyand trying to browse a faulty website.
Some passengers said They did not receive an email or text message about the status of their flight, and instead found out through a notice in the company app, from Flight Aware, or from family and friends.
María Valenciano Ramos and her husband, Geronima Ramos Jr., had hoped to visit their daughter in Nashville this week, but their Southwest Airlines flight on Monday was cancelled, they said. They spent three hours on hold with customer service, only to have their booked flight cancelled.
They drove in desperation to the Southwest terminal at the airport Tuesday morning and finally rebooked their trip for January 1, the earliest available flight, with no set return date. Other airlines that operated a similar route charged up to $1,600 more per ticket, Geronima Ramos Jr. said.
“This has changed our entire schedule, all our vacations,” Valenciano Ramos said.
Newly elected Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath was stranded in Las Vegas after her Southwest flight back to Los Angeles was cancelled. she said on twitter Monday afternoon.
“Because @SouthwestAir my only chance to get home is to spend more than $400 one way on another airline and arrive [Tuesday] in the afternoon (and cancel the appointment with the vet and work meetings). United Nations. Real. Who can afford this? Not working families or young people who can go home once a year for the holidays,” Horvath said in a tweet.
Many also questioned the airline’s claim that the weather was to blame, pointing out that other airlines were operating with fewer disruptions, and that part of the problem might be a staffing issue.
The Dallas-based airline has said it was “fully staffed and prepared” for the holiday weekend, but “operating conditions” caused by severe weather sweeping through most of the country “forced daily changes in our flight schedule in a volume and magnitude that still has the tools that our teams use to recover the airline operating at full capacity”.
The crippling winter storm hit two of the Southwest’s largest hubs, Chicago and Denver, particularly hard.
The US Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon that it was “concerned about Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays”, as well as reports of “lack of timely customer service”.
“The Department will review whether the cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is following through on its customer service plan,” the agency said in a tweet.
Times staff writers Sarah Wire and Courtney Subramanian contributed to this report.