Southwest Airlines cancels thousands of flights, leaving customers stranded

The widespread winter storm across the nation has now caused thousands of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines, leaving customers stranded, perhaps for days.  According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, approximately two-thirds of Southwest’s flights were canceled as of Monday afternoon, the most of any other airline. FlightAware said that 2,700 Southwest flights were canceled, and another 700 were delayed.  The Federal Department of Transportation said it would investigate the mass cancellations by Southwest, stating they were “concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays as well as the failure to properly support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay … As more information becomes available the Department will closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”

In a statement Monday, Southwest offered their “heartfelt apologies,” and said that its geography made it “uniquely vulnerable to the storm,” with half of the airports in which it flies affected by winter weather. The statement read: “We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S. This forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity. We anticipate additional changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the coming New Year holiday travel period.”

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said in an internal message on Sunday that was reported by several media outlets:  “Part of what we’re suffering is a lack of tools. We’ve talked an awful lot about modernizing the operation, and the need to do that.”  In addition, Southwest spokesperson Chris Perry said the airline’s online booking and check-in systems are still operating, but were also jammed because of “abnormally high” volumes of traffic on their site and that they were “re-accommodating as many Customers as possible based on available space.”

Editorial credit: RaksyBH /