Southwest Airlines outage leaves customers stranded, call centers flooded

(CNN) Last week’s winter weather travel disaster lingers like a hangover this week, and the headaches are proportional to the migraines for Southwest Airlines and its frustrated passengers on Monday.

More than 3,600 flights within, to or from the US had already been canceled as of 4:10 p.m. ET on Monday, according to the flight tracking website. informed flightwhile almost 5,800 flights had been delayed.

But Southwest represents a large part of them. No other US airline has canceled as many flights or as much of its schedule as Southwest.

The Dallas-based airline had canceled about two-thirds of its flights (about 2,700 in total) as of 4:10 p.m. Monday, according to FlightAware. At one point, it canceled around 300 flights in the span of half an hour on Monday afternoon.

On social media, customers complain loudly about long lines to speak with representatives, problems with lost bags and excessive wait times or busy signals on the airline’s customer service phone lines.

Customers wait to rebook their Southwest Airlines flight at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.

Customers wait to rebook their Southwest Airlines flight at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.


CNN’s Carlos Su├írez has been speaking to frustrated passengers in line at the Southwest ticket counter at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

He reports that around 150 customers are waiting in a long line to rebook, with the line snaking around the back of the ticket counter.

“Interruptions in our network”

In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines said it is “experiencing outages to our network as a result of the lingering effects (of the winter storm) across our entire operation.”

Some of the airports experiencing the biggest problem are Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington and Dallas Love Field, where Southwest operates.

Calls to Southwest customer service that CNN attempted Monday afternoon did not go through, so customers couldn’t even get in line to speak to a representative. Southwest told CNN that it is “fully staffed to answer calls.”

Customers found long lines at Southwest counters Monday at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Customers found long lines at Southwest counters Monday at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.


The airline also says that “those whose flights have been canceled can request a full refund or receive a flight credit, which does not expire.”

Meanwhile, in hard-hit western New York, Buffalo International Airport said in its most recent tweet that it plans to resume passenger flights at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

The temperature at the airport was 19 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius) around 4 pm ET, with a light snowfall on top of the huge amounts the area has already seen.

What can stranded passengers do?

If you’ve been left in the lurch and your efforts to contact a customer service agent are going nowhere, the founder of Cheap Scott Flights suggests trying an international number.

“The main hotline for US airlines will be clogged with other passengers who will need to rebook. To quickly reach an agent, call any of the airline’s dozens of international offices,” Scott Keyes said.

“Agents can handle your reservation the same as those in the US, but there’s virtually no waiting to get through.”

Any relief in sight?

It could be next week before all of this is fully fixed.

“When there have been over 10,000 flight cancellations in the past week, airlines need time to work and re-accommodate the backlog,” Keyes told CNN Travel in an email.

“While it will depend on the weather forecast (which looks promising for much of the country) and the number of travelers who end up canceling their vacation plans, I expect things to be largely back to normal by next week.” Keyes said.

And why are so many people having trouble rebooking?

“One complicating factor for people waiting to be re-accommodated is the fact that there are very few seats available this season,” Keyes said.

“That’s because Christmas and New Years are one of the most popular times of the year to travel, with the number of scheduled flights this year still down 15-20%, making the challenge even more higher for those who need to rebook.” .”

Bad road conditions

Road travel remained treacherous in parts of the US due to extreme winter conditions.

In western Erie County, New York state, emergency driving restrictions have been lifted in some communities, but remained in place in BuffaloCounty Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday.

“The city of Buffalo is impassable in most areas, while major areas may have a lane or two open for emergency traffic, most secondary and side streets remain untouched,” Poloncarz said.

He added that the main roads cleared are mainly for the use of salvage measures to open up areas around hospitals and nursing homes.

a hard last week

A winter storm ripping through the US was not the right time for travelers who had begun to push Christmas week flight numbers back to pre-pandemic levels.

On Christmas Day, there were 3,178 canceled flights and 6,870 delayed flights, according to FlightAware.

On Christmas Eve, there were a total of 3,487 canceled flights, according to FlightAware.

Friday was the worst day of this streak with 5,934 cancellations, while almost 2,700 cancellations were recorded on Thursday.

This mega blast of winter weather across the eastern two-thirds of the nation is forecast to slowly moderate this week.

More developments to come in this breaking news.

Ross Levitt, Chris Boyette and CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this story.

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