The world’s largest low-cost carrier canceled three out of every 10 departures scheduled for Sunday and disruptions continued on Monday, a federal holiday, with 337 flights – or nearly one in 10 – canceled so far. Granted, according to aviation tracking website FlightAware.
The company blamed the cancellations for air traffic control problems and limited staff in Florida, as well as inclement weather. It told CNN late Sunday that normalizing operations was “more difficult and longer” because of the schedule and staff cuts made during the pandemic.
“We have continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operations with a focus on redeploying aircraft and crew to take care of our customers,” the airline said in a statement.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that there had been no air traffic-related cancellations since Friday. The agency said airlines were facing delays as the aircraft and crew were out.
“Extensive inclement weather, military training and limited staffing in an area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center resulted in flight delays and cancellations for a few hours on Friday afternoon,” the FAA said.
However, other airlines were not as severely affected by these issues. American Airlines canceled 2% of its flights on Sunday, and low-budget Spirit Airlines also canceled 2%, according to FlightAware.
This is a busy travel weekend as Monday is a federal holiday. Southwest canceled 808 flights on Saturday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded across the country.
we’re just driving instead
Mary Cory was scheduled to fly from Oklahoma City to Orlando on Sunday morning for a cruise. At 3 a.m. she noticed that her flight had been canceled and spent more than eight hours on the phone with customer service.
Corey said she spent more than $400 and used 20,000 credit card points on a United flight that would depart the morning of her cruise. She also lost money on the AirBnb she booked in Orlando and had to rearrange childcare.
“I have flown with Southwest more than 200 times and I have always been very pleased with their customer service,” Corey said. “I hope they sort it out.”
Kate Pfeiffer told CNN she was forced to take a rental car and drive 900 miles after Southwest Airlines canceled the second half of her flight on Sunday. She was at LaGuardia Airport and on her way back to Phoenix.
“I’m on my way to my final destination,” Pfeiffer told CNN. “We were forced to rent a car and drive 900 miles home.”
Trouble for the Southwest
Last week, the airline announced a vaccine mandate for employees, prompting speculation that the weekend delay could be due to a pilot walk-out.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association claimed that the cancellation was due to “poor management planning”. CNN has contacted SWAPA for comment.
Southwest has been a tough year. The airline had the worst on-time performance and the largest percentage of canceled flights of any of the country’s four major airlines in June and July, according to flight tracking service Cirium. Passengers aren’t the only ones upset with Southwest: unions for pilots, flight attendants and mechanics have complained about the airline’s operations.
“To any Southwest customer whose trip with us this summer turned out to be less than they expected, we offer our sincere apologies,” Kelly said in a statement. “We believe these adjustments will create a more reliable travel experience.”
The airline said the revised schedule affected operations later this week.
“With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, it is more difficult and longer to recover during operational challenges,” Southwest said in a statement.
– CNN’s Chris Isidore, Pete Muntian, Greg Wallace and Alisha Ibrahimji contributed to this report.