When the SMS from Southwest Airlines came at 1:18 a.m. Sunday, Kathleen Miller was asleep.
Her trip from Phoenix to Dallas was canceled around 7:30 a.m.
The Pennsylvania lady didn’t see the text until she arrived at the airport when she was led to a long rebooking queue near the ticket booths by Southwest personnel.
She waited in line for 45 minutes and was given a less-than-ideal rebooking option: a flight on Tuesday.
“We’re fortunate in that we have family in the city,” Miller added.
Stranded Southwest customers are dealing with the second day of widespread flight cancellations by the country’s biggest domestic carrier.
According to flight tracker FlightAware,
Southwest had canceled 1,018 Sunday flights as of 2 p.m. ET.
That’s a whopping 28 percent of the airline’s planned flights, the most of any U.S. carrier by along by.
According to FlightAware, American Airlines has canceled 63 flights, or 2% of its operations,
while Spirit Airlines has canceled 32 flights or 4% of its operations.
Denver, Baltimore, Dallas Love Field, Las Vegas, and Chicago Midway are the U.S.
airports with the most flight cancellations for departures and arrivals on Sunday,
even though Southwest doesn’t refer to them as such.
Southwest’s cancellations on Sunday come on the heels of 808 cancellations on Saturday,
or almost one out of every four flights.
Given the federal holiday on Monday, this comes amid a busy travel weekend.
The airline attributed the difficulty to weather and air traffic control problems.
The airline said in a statement on Saturday that it expected Sunday’s operations to improve, not deteriorate.
“We had a major effect at Florida airports last night (Friday) when an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was enacted due to weather,
resulting in a high number of cancellations.” Behind the scenes,
we’re working hard to reduce difficulties and completely restore the business while taking care of displaced employees,
and customers as soon as feasible. We’ll keep resetting our network today in the hopes of returning to near-normal operations by Sunday.”
Southwest’s comments blaming air traffic control difficulties and weather,
without identifying the airline — were met with a response from the FAA on Sunday,
claiming that the problems were confined to Friday afternoon.
In a statement, FAA spokesman Steve Kulm stated, “No FAA air traffic personnel shortages have been recorded since Friday.”
“Due to widespread bad weather, military training, and inadequate personnel in one section of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center,
flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon.”
“Some airlines continue to have scheduling difficulties as a result of out-of-place aircraft and personnel,”
the statement said. “For information on current flight schedules, please contact the airlines.”
Southwest has not responded to rumors about other potential reasons,
such as resistance to a vaccination requirement issued by the airline a week ago in response to President Joe Biden’s government vaccine mandate announced in mid-September.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said on Oct. 4 that “we must join our industry colleagues in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 immunization mandate.”
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) president, Casey Murray,
blamed the flight problems on personnel and a “poorly managed business.”
He claims that the number of pilots calling in ill has not increased over the weekend.
According to him, almost three out of every four pilots operating on Saturday had their flights diverted as a result of the flight problems.
“SWAPA is aware of operational problems impacting Southwest Airlines today owing to a variety of concerns,” the union stated in a statement uploaded to its website Saturday.
“However, we can declare with confidence that our pilots are not engaging in any official or unofficial work actions.”
“Our pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning and any external operational difficulties to remain the world’s most productive pilots.”
They will remain focused on their first objective, which is safety.”Southwest Airlines flight
Southwest’s autumn travel woes come after a tumultuous summer for the carrier.
Southwest’s management has said repeatedly that putting the airline back on track is their top concern.
Thousands of people are being hired by the airline to assist with a personnel shortfall.