Reason behind widespread Southwest cancellations, delays remains unclear

National

CHICAGO (WGN) — Hundreds of Southwest Airlines customers were left stranded due to widespread cancellations across the country.

According to FlightAware, a website that provides real-time flight insights, Southwest has canceled over 1,000 flights on Sunday. That’s 27% of the airline’s scheduled flights on the nation’s largest domestic airline. 

Southwest said an air traffic management program put in place due to weather has caused significant delays.

The airline released the following statement on Sunday:

We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening. We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and crews repositioned to take care of our customers.

With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.

We’re working diligently to accommodate our customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience. We’re offering customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel. We know the frustration flight cancellations are creating for our customers and employees and we apologize, and we again thank everyone for patience as we work first to be safe, and second to be as quick as possible in solving disrupted plans.

The FAA tweeted Sunday there were no staffing shortages affecting air traffic control and that “some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”

Passengers have said they have been given very little information from the airline, and were wondering if there was also an issue affecting Southwest’s staffing – not air traffic controllers.

“It’s only two employees, they only have two people checking you in for luggage and tickets,” customer Kasena Jackson said.

“When I got to the line they rescheduled me on a flight tonight at 9, but that one was just canceled too,” flyer Wendie Kaminski said Saturday.

Southwest Airlines became the latest U.S. airline Monday to require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Dallas-based company said its workers must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 in order to remain at the airline. Employees can seek approval to skip the shots due to medical or religious reasons.

Southwest said it has to mandate vaccines because of new rules from the Biden administration requiring companies with federal contracts to have vaccinated staff. Southwest’s work for the government includes flying the military in emergencies and carrying mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Rivals American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and JetBlue have already told their staff they needed to be vaccinated

The Associated Press and NewsNation’s Jasmine Cooper contributed to this report.

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