Travelers “beyond frustrated” by Southwest Airlines cancellations: “It’s been hell”

Southwest Airlines apologizes for the cancellation and delay of thousands of flights

Southwest Airlines apologizes for the cancellation and delay of thousands of flights


The winter storm that disrupted travel plans over the weekend and created an epic backlog of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines left the airline’s passengers “beyond frustrated” as one put it on CBS DFW. Thousands of families were stranded, with a few days to wait to board planes.

Southwest customers at Dallas Love Field expressed disappointment, frustration and anger Monday after facing multiple flight delays and cancellations since before Christmas.

Talia Jones, a Southwest Air customer, told CBS DFW that she was “beyond frustrated and hurt that I can’t see my dad. So yeah, it’s very disappointing.”

As of 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Southwest was responsible for the vast majority of US cancellations for the new day, according to the flight tracking website. 2,495 of 2,809 for all carriers.

Two-thirds of Southwest’s flights had been canceled as of Monday afternoon, according to FlightAware.

On Monday afternoon, the board at Dallas Love Field showed that all arrivals had been canceled, according to reporter Kelly Laco.

At Chicago Midway International Airport, where Southwest is the main carrier, wait times were high and patience ran out Monday night. CBS Chicago said.

One traveler described the situation as nothing short of a disaster. In addition to long lines taking up space, hundreds upon hundreds of bags were waiting to be claimed as cancellations and delays piled up.

“It’s been hell,” said Denzil Smothers, whose flight was cancelled.

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.

Southwest cancels more than 2,800 flights
Passengers line up at the Southwest Airlines counter at San Francisco International Airport on December 26, 2022.

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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 reporting by Zel Elvi, Kathryn Krupnik, Kris Van Cleave, and Brian Dakss.

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