Airlines cancel thousands of flights amid winter storm chaos, with Southwest canceling 70%


Airlines have canceled thousands of flights in what has become a Christmas nightmare for many as winter storms and staffing problems continue to wreak havoc across the US.

Most major airlines have canceled or delayed thousands of flights, with Southwest Airlines canceling at least 70% of its flights on Monday due to a reported system meltdown. The airline also canceled 60% of its flights for Tuesday.

On Christmas Day, 42% of Southwest flights were canceled and 48% delayed, according to FlightAware data.

Southwest Airlines flight operations specialist James Davis said late on Monday that “the size of the storm” across the country affected all major airports.

“It’s just the fact that this one started west, swept east and impacted almost all of our biggest airports that put us in a position where we struggled to recover and to get our crews and planes where they needed to be.” from Houston William P. Hobby Airport.

Captain Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said in a statement on Monday that the ordeal “was catastrophic.”

“It’s been a failure at every level at Southwest. Our pilots, our frontline workers have been working under enormous stress to try to get our passengers from A to B, but we’ve had a really bad situation as far as Southwest is concerned,” Murray said. , in part, adding that its “processes”, information technology or infrastructure “simply weren’t there to support the operation”.

“And unfortunately, our customers are bearing the brunt of that,” added Murray.

Angry Southwest customers took to Twitter on Monday, sharing their frustrations with delays, cancellations and long wait times to speak with customer service agents.

“With consecutive days of extreme winter across our network, the ongoing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest said in a statement posted online. “And our sincere apologies for that are just getting started.”

Southwest said it was working to “resolve the large-scale disruption” by repositioning its crew and planes, which were all in the wrong places.

ABC News spoke with three stranded travelers — one staying overnight at an airport in Boston until his new flight, one stranded in Chicago after his flight was canceled and one driving with a stranger to get to his Disney Cruise in Tampa after flight issues.

PHOTO: Passengers wait in line at the Delta Air Lines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, December 25, 2022.

Passengers wait in line at the Delta Air Lines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on December 25, 2022.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

Each traveler blamed the delays on the staff rather than the weather.

ABC News reached out to American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta and United to learn how staff is impacting their current delays and cancellations.

“I wanted to fly home for Christmas,” Laetitia Duler, who was flying from Boston to San Francisco for the holidays, told ABC News. “As soon as I got in line they said ‘your flights are cancelled. Like bye’.”

Eric Jernigan was trying to fly from Jackson, Mississippi, to Tampa, Florida, for a Disney cruise, when his Delta flight was canceled due to a lack of crew, he told ABC News.

He and five others decided to drive to Florida after being stranded at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.

The City of Buffalo, New York initiated a travel ban as blizzard conditions hit the area.

According to New York Governor Kathy Hochul and local officials, 29 people have died in the state after a massive lake-effect snowstorm.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport announced on Monday that it will be closed until Wednesday as its teams work “24 hours a day” to get the airport up and running again.

Cherise Rudy of ABC News contributed to this report.