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Passengers ‘frustrated’ over Southwest Airlines cancellation: ‘It was hell’

Southwest Airlines apologizes as thousands of flights are canceled and delayed


Southwest Airlines apologizes as thousands of flights are canceled and delayed

02:22

A winter storm that disrupted travel plans over the weekend and created an epic pile of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines has left the airline’s passengers “beyond frustrated” as one put it on CBS DFV. Thousands of families were left stranded, with days waiting 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 DFV that she is “beyond frustrated and hurt because I can’t see my father. So yes, it’s very disappointing.”

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

Two-thirds of Southwest flights were canceled Monday afternoon, according to FlightAvare.

On Monday afternoon, a sign at Dallas Love Field indicated that all arrivals had been canceled, according to reporter Kelly Lako.

At Chicago’s Midway International Airport — where Southwest is a major carrier — wait times were long and patience was wearing thin Monday night, CBS Chicago said.

One passenger described the situation as a mess. In addition to the long lines taking up space, hundreds upon hundreds of bags waited to be claimed as cancellations and delays continued to pile up.

“It was hell,” said Denzil Smothers, whose flight was canceled.

The federal Department of Transportation said Monday it would investigate the crash, saying it was “concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays, and its failure to adequately support customers who experience cancellations or delays.”

“As more information becomes available, the Department will carefully examine whether the cancellations were controlled and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan, as well as all other relevant DOT rules,” the statement said.

Passenger Michael Bauzon and his family planned to fly out of Orlando International Airport on Friday to return home to Indianapolis in time for Christmas on Sunday. Instead, the four spent the holidays in a hotel after their flight was canceled, Bauzon told CBS affiliate VKMG, and returned to the airport Monday — where they continued to wait.

“We got here at 4:30 this morning for a 7:05 flight, we looked it up and it was just canceled,” he said, pointing to the line snaking outside the Southwest service desk. “It’s a four to five hour line … before they get us on the flight — if they can get us on the flight,” he said.

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

Taifun 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 “uniquely” vulnerable to the storm, with half of the airports it flies to affected by winter weather.

“We were fully booked and prepared for the upcoming holiday weekend when severe weather hit the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 US travel markets.” “This has forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and size that still has the tools our teams are using to restore the airline to operating at full capacity,” the statement said.

“We anticipate further changes to the already reduced number of flights as we approach the upcoming New Year holiday travel period,” the statement said.

The company also blames a lack of technology. “Part of what we’re suffering from is a 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 that was carried by several media outlets and the flight attendant union.

Jammed phone lines, systems

Southwest steered customers away from jammed phone lines, noting there were “systemic issues” amid increased demand.

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

As 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.

“The lack of technology has left the airline relying on manual solutions and personal phone calls, leaving flight attendants on hold with Southwest Airlines for up to 5 hours at a time to simply be released home after a trip, or while they try to secure a hotel room or know where will their next trip be,” the union said in a statement. “While it is understood that rerouting and scheduling are part of the business of the airline industry, the sheer volume of failures over the past few days points to a shirking of responsibility over many years to invest in and implement technology that could help solve the many issues plaguing both flight attendants and passengers.”

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

— With reporting by Zell Elvie, Kathryn Krupnick, Chris Van Cleve and Brian Dax.



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