Number of Canceled Southwest Airlines Flights Is Pretty Wild

Carrier canceled 71% of its flights Monday
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2022 1:22 AM CST
Southwest Canceled 71% of Its Flights Monday
A flight board shows canceled flights at the Southwest Airlines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022, in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia)

Travelers were dealing with flight delays and cancellations Monday, perhaps not surprising given the combination of holiday travel and the wild weather impacting much of the US. The shocking part? Just how massive a share of the flight cancellations Southwest Airlines accounted for. As CNN and NPR report, flight tracking website FlightAware reported that by Monday night, more than 3,900 flights within, into, or out of the US had been canceled—and more than 2,900 of those were Southwest flights. The second-highest number of cancellations for Monday was Delta, which, at 265 cancellations, was more than 10 times lower than Southwest. Southwest had canceled 71% of its flights for the day as of 10:10pm Eastern time. "This is really as bad as it gets for an airline," says one travel expert.

And indeed, "This is the largest scale event that I’ve ever seen," Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told the Wall Street Journal on Monday night. Jordan said the airline plans to operate just over a third of its normal schedule Tuesday, Wednesday, and possibly beyond that as it works to get planes and crew where they need to be. Upset customers shared stories on social media of being stranded at airports, their baggage being lost, being unable to get anyone at Southwest on the phone (one passenger described being on hold for 10 hours), or of waiting in lines 150-people long to talk to a representative at the airport. In Denver, stranded passengers were told Monday that they wouldn't be able to rebook until Friday; in Houston, passengers were told it wouldn't be until Saturday.

"With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable," the airline acknowledged in a statement. But the airline's union for flight attendants tells KDVR the company's failure to upgrade its outdated software is a large part of the problem, noting that in a Christmas day message to employees, Jordan had acknowledged, "Part of what we’re suffering is a lack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." The Department of Transportation says Southwest's rate of cancellations was "unacceptable," and promises to "examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan." (More Southwest Airlines stories.)

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