Southwest Airlines continues to cancel flights as New Year’s holiday looms

(CNN) — After a disastrous week of weather-related flight cancellations and delays, American Airlines travelers hoping for clear skies on Tuesday will have to wait a few more days — especially if they’re flying Southwest Airlines.

More than 2,790 flights within, in and out of the United States had been canceled as of 4:15 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

Of those canceled flights, 2,487 were operated by Southwest Airlines.

The airport most affected by Tuesday’s flight cancellations was Denver International Airport, followed by Chicago Midway International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Las Vegas’ Harri Reid International Airport, Dallas Love Field Airport and Nashville International Airport.

Tuesday’s cancellations follow a day of post-Christmas travel chaos that saw 3,989 flights canceled on Monday, 2,909 of which were Southwest flights.

Southwest warned that such cancellations and delays were expected to continue for several more days, and representatives said the Dallas-based carrier was planning to reduce its flight schedule to keep operations on track.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan told the Wall Street Journal that the company plans to complete more than a third of its schedule in the next few days to get crew members into the correct positions.

Jordan added that the shortened schedule could be extended, reported.

“We had a tough day today. We’ll probably have another tough day tomorrow because we’re trying to get out of it,” Jordan said in an interview with Monday night.

“It’s the biggest event I’ve ever seen.”

What can stranded passengers do?

CNN’s Carlos Suarez spoke to frustrated passengers at the Southwest ticket counter at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday afternoon.

He reported that at one point there was a line of about 150 customers waiting to be rebooked, the line snaking behind ticket counters.

CNN calls to Southwest Airlines customer service on Monday afternoon did not go through, so customers couldn’t even line up to speak to a representative. Southwest Airlines told CNN it was “fully staffed to answer the call.”

Passengers wait to retrieve their luggage at a Southwest Airlines baggage counter after a flight was canceled at Los Angeles International Airport, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.

Passengers wait to retrieve their luggage at a Southwest Airlines baggage counter after a flight was canceled at Los Angeles International Airport, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.

Eugene Garcia/AP

The airline also said that “those whose flights were canceled can request a full refund or receive flight credits that do not expire.”

If you’re stuck and efforts to contact a customer service agent are going nowhere, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights recommends trying an international number.

“American Airlines’ main hotline will be clogged with other passengers rebooking. To get through to an agent quickly, call any of the airline’s dozens of international offices,” Scott Keyes said.

“Agents can process your reservations just like US agents, but with virtually no wait to get through.”

Southwest Spokesperson: “Take care of yourself…get your receipt”

A spokesman for Southwest Airlines (SWA) said the recent winter storm was responsible for thousands of flight cancellations on Monday and early cancellations on Tuesday.

“As the storm continues to sweep across the country, it continues to affect many of our larger stations, so the cancellations add up to 100 to 150 to 1,000 one by one,” Jay McVay said in a news conference at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport Said Monday night.

“As a result of these cancellations, we ended up with crews and aircraft out of place instead of continuing to operate our operations in the cities they needed to enter.”

McVeigh said the company’s top priority right now is safety. “We want to make sure that we are operating these flights safely and that our crews have sufficient legal time to operate them,” he said.

“We’re going to do everything we can to meet the challenges we’re facing right now, including hotels, ride assistance, vans … rental cars, to make sure these people get home as quickly as possible,” he said.

All customers, even those who have left the airport or made other arrangements of their own, will be taken care of, he promised.

“If you’ve left, take care of yourself, do what you need to do for your family, keep your receipts,” McVeigh relayed. “We’ll make sure they’re taken care of, it’s not a problem.”

An announcement at the terminal ahead of the press conference apologized to customers and said the next available SWA seats were on Saturday, December 31 and beyond. Southwest will provide buses to hotels in the area, the agent said, assuring that “we will have adequate rooms for all customers affected by this disruption.”

US government ‘concerned’ about cancellation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a statement on Southwest Airlines’ mass flight cancellations on Monday, saying the agency was “concerned.”

“The U.S. Department of Transportation is concerned about reports of Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and lack of timely customer service. The department will examine whether cancellations are manageable and Southwest is adhering to its customer service plan,” the agency tweeted road.

Meanwhile, in a call with CNN on Monday, Capt. Kathy Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said the problems Southwest is experiencing have been brewing for a long time.

“We’ve had these issues for the last 20 months,” he said. “We’ve seen these kinds of crashes happen much more often, and it’s really just about outdated processes and outdated IT.”

When asked about the airline’s processes, he said they haven’t changed since the 1990s. “It’s the phone, it’s the computer, it’s the processing power, it’s the programming that connects us to the plane — that’s the problem, it’s a systemic problem across the airline.”

“It’s ultimately a leadership issue,” Murray said. “Until we have real leadership to make some changes and really bring this airline into the 21st century, we will continue to see this and our customers and employees will continue to suffer.”

in other development

— In hard-hit Western New York, buffalo international airport In its most recent tweet, it said it does not plan to resume passenger flights before 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, delaying its expected reopening by another 24 hours than previously expected.
— Greyhound, the largest provider of intercity bus services, issued a service alert Monday afternoon saying many of its scheduled services in the upper northeast would be canceled or interrupted until further notice due to winter weather. Affected cities include Buffalo, Cleveland and Syracuse.

tough holiday week

A winter storm sweeping across the U.S. has come at an inopportune time for travelers already starting to push Christmas week flight numbers back to pre-pandemic levels.

On Christmas Day, 3,178 flights were canceled and 6,870 were delayed, according to FlightAware.

On Christmas Eve, a total of 3,487 flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.

Friday was the worst day of the streak, with 5,934 cancellations, compared with nearly 2,700 on Thursday.

CNN’s Andi Babineau, Dave Alsap, Leslie Perrot and Ross Levitt contributed to this story.

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