Southwest Midway: As another holiday weekend begins, airline appears to resume normal operations

Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights over last week

ByStephanie Wade WLS logo
Saturday, December 31, 2022
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After thousands of Southwest flights were canceled in the last week, the airline appears to have resumed more normal operations Friday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- This is the start of another holiday weekend, and Southwest Airlines appears to have resumed normal operations Friday -- with no issues.

After nearly 16,000 cancelled flights nationwide, Southwest Airlines is finally catching up.

After nearly 16,000 cancelled flights nationwide, Southwest Airlines is finally catching up today.

The meltdown, believed to have left more than 1 million holiday travelers frustrated and stranded across the country, including Virginia Reyes, who has been sleeping at the Las Vegas Airport since Monday, trying to catch a flight back to Chicago.

"I feel like I need to go to the doctor and get anxiety medication. I need to go see a therapist because of this, honestly that's how I feel. I haven't eaten in four days, I'm tired, angry, confused. Nobody's got any answers," Reyes said.

Finally, she was able to fly home today. But her luggage didn't make it.

The same thing happened to Lysia Sykes, whose luggage was lost flying here from Atlanta after having three flights cancelled since Tuesday.

"It's been a lot because you can't even get a hold of anyone. I've had my mom on hold for eight hours," Sykes said.

Despite issues over the past week, people felt confident to fly today.

"We thought either it will be or it won't be resolved by Friday. Nothing I do between now and Friday is going to make a difference." Said Laura Spero, visiting from Boston.

The outlook was already promising Friday morning, with very few cancelations at Midway.

As of about 11:30 a.m., there were five cancelations at Midway. Delays were less than 15 minutes at both airports.

There were 41 Southwest cancelations nationwide. That's nothing compared to the nearly 2,400 cancelations Thursday.

It was much calmer at Midway Friday, after almost a week of chaos.

Southwest canceled some 16,000 flights this week, according to FlightAware. The meltdown is believed to have left more than one million holiday travelers frustrated and stranded across the country.

Southwest Airlines is apologizing Friday, as it scrambles to reboot operations after canceling thousands of flights, and faces an even harder test of winning back customers' trust.

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Starting Friday, Southwest Airlines aims to end the travel nightmare impacting customers nationwide.

"My personal apology is the first step of making things right," Southwest COO Ryan Green said.

"We are encouraged by the progress we've made to realign Crew, their schedules, and our fleet," the airline said in a press release. "With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued Customers and Employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy."

The incident is being called one of the worst airline meltdowns in U.S. history.

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"I've never seen anything like this. This is absolutely crazy," passenger Christina Arriazola said.

Stranded Southwest customers have spent days without their luggage, forced to cover unforeseen expenses out of pocket.

What should I do if my luggage is delayed, lost or damaged?

At Midway airport, piles of bags were moved from the luggage area. The Chicago Department of Aviation said the baggage has been moved to a secured facility.

Ayaan Sohail was in Chicago, visiting family over the holidays from El Paso, Texas.

After a travel nightmare, he's hoping he can fly out on time Friday.

"Honestly, getting here was a challenge first. I was rebooked three times to get here so I went through three different cities to get here. And then to get back, my flight yesterday was canceled so they rebooked me for today. So it's been a hassle," Sohail said.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" Friday morning, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan apologized and promised reimbursements to passengers for their troubles.

"The best way to serve our customers is to get the network going again and I'm really pleased we're here today and we'll run a full network. A close second is to take care of all the things that occurred during the issues, get refunds processed, gets bags moving. Those kind of things, talk to our customers and take care of them. There will be a lot of lessons learned that come out of this. We already had a great plan to invest in tools and technology and processes as we always do, but there will be a lot of lessons learned in terms of what we can do to make sure this never happens again because this needs to never happen again," Jordan said.

Southwest is urging impacted travelers to submit receipts on its website, saying it will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel and alternate transportation from those whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2.

The airline also pledged to reimburse customers' unused tickets during that same window.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is already investigating Southwest and vowing to hold the carrier accountable for those reimbursements.

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"I'm assigning U.S. DOT resources to follow up on every complaint that comes in to make sure that you get compensated," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said.

But travelers should be prepared to wait. Southwest said that compensation process could take weeks, as could the timeline for them to ship lost luggage to passengers.

ABC7 Chicago contributed to this report.