Southwest Airlines disruption leaves customers stranded, call centers swamped

(CNN) – Last week’s wintry weather travel chaos continues to hang around this week — and the headaches Monday are of migratory proportions for Southwest Airlines and its frustrated passengers.

According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, more than 3,600 flights in or out of the United States had already been canceled as of 4:10 p.m. ET Monday, while nearly 5,800 flights were delayed.

But the Southwest accounts for a large part of it. None of the other US carriers canceled nearly as many flights or as many of their schedules as Southwest.

The Dallas-based airline canceled about two-thirds of its flights — about 2,700 in total — as of 4:10 p.m. Monday, according to FlightAware. At one point, it canceled about 300 flights within half an hour on Monday afternoon.

On social media, customers complain loudly About long lines to speak with representatives, lost bag problems and long wait times or busy signals on airport customer service phone lines.

Customers wait to rebook their Southwest Airlines flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.

Customers wait to rebook their Southwest Airlines flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.


CNN’s Carlos Suarez spoke to frustrated passengers at the Southwest ticket counter at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.

He reported that around 150 customers at a time were waiting in a long line to rebook, with the line stretching behind the ticket counter.

‘Blocks in our network’

Southwest responded to the massive cancellation in an emailed statement Monday afternoon:

“With continued severe winter weather across our network, the ongoing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” the statement read.

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“We are working with safety first to resolve the large-scale disruption by urgently rebalancing the airport and redeploying crews and our fleet to ultimately better serve all who serve our Planning to travel with

“On the other hand, we will work to make things right for those we left behind, including our employees.”

In an earlier statement to CNN on Monday, Southwest Airlines said it was “facing disruptions throughout our network as a result of (the winter storm)’s long-term impact on the integrity of our operations.”

Some of the airports seeing the biggest issues are Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington, and Dallas Love Field where Southwest operates.

Customers faced long lines at Southwest counters at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday.

Customers faced long lines at Southwest counters at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday.


Calls to Southwest customer service were not returned Monday afternoon by CNN, so customers could not even speak to a representative in line. Southwest told CNN it is “fully staffed to answer calls.”

The airline also says, “Persons whose flights have been canceled may request a full refund or flight credit, which does not expire.”

A Tweet Customers from Southwest directing self-service options had more than 870 responses — many of them angry — as of 4:30 p.m. ET.

One of the responses read: “Stop blaming the weather! Should have bought a first class ticket at another airport but it ran out on time! You still have our luggage with the medicine inside! From the phone Can’t get through!”

Meanwhile, in hard-hit Western New York, Buffalo International Airport said in its latest tweet that it plans to resume passenger flights at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

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The temperature at the airport was around 19 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 degrees Celsius) at 4 p.m. ET, with light snow falling on top of the heavy amounts the area has already seen.

What can stranded passengers do?

If you’re stuck on hold and your efforts to reach a customer service agent go nowhere, the founders of Scott Cheap Flights recommend trying the international number.

“The main US airlines hotline will be tied up with rebooking other passengers. To reach an agent as soon as possible, call any of the airline’s dozens of international offices,” said Scott Keys. Scott Keyes said.

“Agents can handle your reservation as if they were based in the US, but there’s really no waiting for it.”

Any comfort in the eyes?

It may be next week before it’s all completely settled.

“When more than 10,000 flights are canceled in the past week, it takes time for airlines to work and replace the backlog of passengers,” Keyes told CNN Travel in an email.

“While it will depend on the weather forecast (which looks promising for much of the country) and how many travelers cancel their holiday plans, I expect things to pick up by next week.” Levels will return to normal,” Keyes said. said

And why do so many people have trouble rebooking?

“A complicating factor for people hoping to be reinstated is the fact that there are very few seats available this season,” Keys said.

“This is both because Christmas and New Year are the most popular times of the year to travel, and because there are still 15-20% fewer flights scheduled this year, making the challenge even tougher for those who Booking required.”

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Bad road condition

Road travel remained poor due to severe winter conditions in parts of the United States.

In New York state’s western Erie County, emergency driving restrictions have been lifted in some communities but remain in place in Buffalo, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday.

“Many areas of the city of Buffalo are impassable, while Mainan may have a lane or two open for emergency traffic, many secondary and side streets are still untouched,” Poloncarz said. Poloncarz said.

He added that the cleared main roads are mainly for the use of life-saving measures to open areas around hospitals and nursing homes.

A tough last week

The winter storm that swept across the U.S. was a bad time for travelers as Christmas weekend flight numbers began to slide back to pre-pandemic levels.

According to FlightAware, on Christmas Day, 3,178 flights were canceled and 6,870 flights were delayed.

On Christmas Eve, a total of 3,487 flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.

Friday was the worst day of the series with 5,934 cancellations, while Thursday saw almost 2,700 cancellations.

This mega-blast of winter weather is expected to slowly moderate this week across the eastern two-thirds of the country.

More developments are coming in this update.

CNN’s Ross Levitt, Chris Boyett and Artemis Mashtagian contributed to this story.


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