DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines canceled more than 350 flights Monday following a weekend of major disruptions that it blamed on bad weather and air traffic control issues. The pilots union accused the company of a botched response to what it said would have been a minor challenge for other airlines.
The third straight day of canceled and delayed flights left passengers stranded and steaming from California to the East Coast.
“You can’t really relax when you’re just sitting there waiting for your next flight to be canceled,” said Vanessa Wheeler, who was biding her time at the San Jose, California, airport. She said Southwest canceled six consecutive flights on her over three days before she eventually decided to book a flight home to Las Vegas with Delta Air Lines. She vowed to never fly Southwest again.
After a rocky summer of flight cancellations and delays amid a travel surge from pandemic lows, Southwest Airlines thought things were looking up.
The airline’s executives told employees in late September that the operation had been stable since mid-August. On-time performance, a dismal 62% in June, was back up over 80% in September.
The momentum was short-lived.
Southwest fell apart again over the weekend, canceling more than 1,900 flights Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, a busy fall break and holiday weekend travel day, the airline axed 30% of its flights, stranding travelers across the country. Monday cancellations were a fraction of weekend levels, but Southwest still led all carriers in cancellations, with more than 350.
By Tuesday morning, cancellations were down to 2% for the day, though still leading other domestic carriers, according to FlightAware, which tracks both cancellations and delays.
Southwest Airlines faced a fourth day of disruptions Monday – after canceling hundreds of flights over the weekend – a sign of airlines’ struggles to capitalize on a growing appetite for travel amid a pandemic that has scrambled the industry and left some carriers stretched thin.
Southwest said the airline was working to return flight operations to normal as it dealt with a backlog of passengers from more than 2,000 canceled flights and thousands more that were delayed since Friday. The airline on Monday canceled 363 flights – about 10 percent of scheduled departures – while more than 1,300 were delayed, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.