Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over the weekend and disruptions continue

The long weekend was a bit longer for customers in the Southwest after the airline canceled more than 2,000 flights Friday through Sunday.

The world’s largest low-cost carrier canceled three of 10 departures it had scheduled for Sunday and the disruption continued until Monday, a federal holiday, with 337 flights – or about one in 10 – canceled until ‘now, according to aviation tracking site FlightAware.

The company blamed the cancellations on air traffic control issues and limited staff in Florida as well as bad weather. He told CNN on Sunday evening that the return to normal operations was “more difficult and prolonged” because of the schedule and staff cuts made during the pandemic.

“We continued to work diligently throughout the weekend to reset our operations with a focus on repositioning aircraft and crews to care for our customers,” the airline said in a statement.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said there had been no air traffic-related cancellations since Friday. The agency said airlines are experiencing delays due to the movement of planes and crews.

“Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread extreme weather conditions, military training and limited personnel in an area of ​​the Jacksonville air traffic control center.” , said the FAA.

However, other airlines did not appear to be as badly affected by these issues. American Airlines canceled 2% of its flights on Sunday, and budget Spirit Airlines also canceled 2%, according to FlightAware.

The airline released an updated statement on the ongoing issues on Monday, which read in part:

“Southwest Airlines apologizes to its customers and employees for the flight cancellations and delays that occurred over the weekend and Monday.

On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, mainly due to weather and other external constraints, which left planes and crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our Saturday schedule. Unfortunately, the displaced aircraft and the continued pressure on our crew resources created additional cancellations on our point-to-point network that reverberated throughout the weekend and through Monday. “

It’s a busy travel weekend because Monday is a federal holiday. Southwest canceled 808 flights on Saturday, stranding thousands of passengers across the country.

Videos and images posted on social media show customers in the Southwest stand in long lines winding through airports in Denver, new York, Missouri and Arizona. Travelers in Chicago, Houston and other major US cities have reported similar unrest.

Marye Cory was scheduled to fly from Oklahoma City to Orlando on Sunday morning for a cruise. At 3 a.m., she saw that her flight had been canceled and spent more than eight hours on the phone with customer service.

Cory said she spent over $ 400 and used 20,000 credit card points on a United flight that will depart on the morning of her cruise. She also lost money on an AirBnb booked in Orlando and had to revamp childcare.

“I have flown with Southwest over 200 times and have always been very satisfied with their customer service,” said Cory. “I hope they will sort this out.”

Last week, the airline announced a vaccination warrant for employees, fueling speculation the weekend delays may have been caused by a pilot leaving.

FOLLOWING: Employees in the southwest must be fully immunized by December 8 to keep their jobs, company says

“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Gary Kelly, chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines said in a statement. “I encourage all Southwest employees to comply with the federal directive as quickly as possible, because we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association claimed the cancellations were due to “management’s poor planning.” CNN has contacted SWAPA for comment.

“SWAPA is aware of the operational difficulties affecting Southwest Airlines today due to a number of issues, but we can say with certainty that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial action,” the union said in a statement. communicated.

Southwest has had a difficult year. The airline had the worst punctuality performance and the highest percentage of canceled flights from any of the country’s four major airlines in June and July, according to the flight tracking service Cirium. Passengers aren’t the only ones unhappy with Southwest: The pilots, flight attendants and mechanics unions have all complained about the airline’s operations.

Southwest has promised to fix the problems by scheduling fewer flights in the fall.

“To any Southwest customer whose trip with us did not meet their expectations this summer, we extend our sincere apologies,” said a statement from Kelly. “We are confident that these adjustments will create a more reliable travel experience.”

The airline said the changed schedule affected operations this weekend.

“With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovery during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged,” Southwest said in a statement.

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