Travelers "Beyond Frustrated" With Southwest Airlines Cancellations: "It's Been Hell"

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Southwest Airlines apologizes for thousands of canceled and delayed flights


Southwest Airlines apologizes for thousands of canceled and delayed flights

02:22

The winter storm that disrupted travel plans over the weekend and created an epic pile of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines has left the carrier’s passengers “beyond frustration,” as one put on CBS DFW🇧🇷 Thousands of families were trapped, with a few days of waiting to board planes.

Southwest on Tuesday canceled more than 2,500, or 63%, of its scheduled flights as of 10:37 am ET, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com. That accounted for more than half of the roughly 4,650 flights canceled today. Airlines also continued to experience disruptions, with Southwest leading the way with over 300 delayed flights.

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

At Chicago’s Midway International Airport – where Southwest is the main carrier – wait times were high and patience was running out on Monday night, CBS Chicago said🇧🇷

The situation was described by one traveler as nothing short of a mess. In addition to long lines taking up space, hundreds and hundreds of bags were waiting to be picked up as cancellations and delays continued to pile up.

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

People also took to social media to criticize Southwest, including a Twitter user who on Tuesday posted video of suitcases stacked in Chicago at Midway Airport.

“We know that irregular operations are frustrating for everyone involved and we sincerely regret any disappointment,” said Southwest. said a traveler on Twitter who was upset about the flood of canceled flights.

The Federal Department of Transportation said on Monday it would investigate the collapse, saying it was “concerned about Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays, as well as its failure to adequately support customers who experience cancellations or delays.” .

“As more information becomes available, the Department will closely review whether cancellations are manageable and whether Southwest is adhering to its customer service plan, as well as all other pertinent DOT rules,” the department said in a statement. communicated.

Traveler Michael Bauzon and his family planned to leave Orlando International Airport on Friday to return home to Indianapolis in time for Christmas on Sunday. Instead, the four vacationed 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 am for a 7:05 am flight, looked it up and, oh, it had just been cancelled,” he said, pointing to a queue snaking in front of the Southwest service desk. “It’s a four to five hour queue… 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 on Monday that began with “sincere apologies,” Southwest said its geography made it “uniquely” vulnerable to the storm, with half the airports it flies to affected by winter weather.

“We were fully staffed and prepared for the upcoming holiday weekend when bad weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 US travel markets. scheduling flights at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to get the airline back operating at capacity,” the statement said.

“We anticipate further changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the upcoming New Year holiday period,” he noted.

The company also blames the lack of technology. “Part of what we’re suffering from is the lack of tools. We’ve talked a lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that,” CEO Bob Jordan said in an internal message Sunday, carried by multiple media outlets. outlets and the union of flight attendants.

Telephone lines, congested systems

Southwest steered customers away from congested phone lines, noting it was experiencing “system issues” amid heightened demand.

Spokesman Chris Perry said the airline’s online booking and check-in systems were still working but were also congested because of “abnormally high” volumes of traffic to its website. “We are accommodating as many customers as possible based on available space,” he told CBS News.

While Southwest blamed technology issues, the flight attendants union, Transit Workers Union 556, accused the airline of contributing to the problem by not investing in technology for years.

“The lack of technology has left the airline dependent 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 return home after travel, or while trying to secure a hotel room or find out where their next trip will be,” the union said in a statement. “While re-routings and rescheduling are understood to be part of the job in the airline industry, the sheer scale of the failure in recent days points to an evasion of responsibility over many years to invest and implement technology that could help solve many of the problems that plague both flight attendants and passengers.”

The union and the airline have been in contractual negotiations for four years.

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

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