Southwest cancels 60% of all flights nationwide Tuesday; will take days to return to normal
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Southwest Airlines cancelled flights issue continued Tuesday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded all across the country.
Southwest Airlines has canceled 60% of its flights Tuesday. The airline posted a video on Tuesday evening featuring CEO Bob Jordan.
"We're doing everything we can to return to normal operation," Jordan said in the video.
Chicago's Midway Airport was still jammed with travelers trying to their hardest to get home Tuesday.
"A series of cancellations has caused a tremendous amount of frustration, headache and inconvenience for thousands hoping to celebrate the holidays with loved ones," the airport's official Twitter account posted. "@SouthwestAir has taken steps to support their stranded passengers by covering the cost of rental cars, hotel rooms, and flights on competitor airlines, and we encourage the airline to further these efforts in the days ahead."
"There is a huge amount of work ahead to return the national aviation system to normal operations, and we continue to urge @SouthwestAir to proactively communicate their progress with their passengers and the traveling public," the Midway account added in their Twitter thread.
The Department of Transportation is looking into the airline's meltdown.
"This has crossed the line into something that is not just a weather delay but something that the airline is responsible for," said US. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
"We thought that Southwest was a pretty sophisticated airline, that everything's always been smooth on our travels, but this seems like just a meltdown," said David Whelan, whose flight was canceled.
Kitty Jarmon's flight to D.C. was canceled just as she got there.
"It's just been frustrating because I'm a single parent," Jarmon said. "I have to get home. My children are there waiting for me. I'm supposed to be at work today now I have to call and say I can't be there."
Camille Perez and her husband Alex were supposed to be on their way home to Austin, Texas, but instead they're stuck in Chicago.
"We had planned on being in Austin in our t-shirts and shorts. That was my plan," Camille said.
They even tried to rent a car and drive all the way back, but no luck.
"Rented a car from Alamo, took an Uber downtown to get it, and all the one ways are cancelled," said Alex.
Carrie and Darrel Henson are also stuck on their way home to Los Angeles after connecting from Pittsburgh. But they are relatively lucky compared to other travelers; they managed to get a room at the Double Tree in Alsip since they can't find a flight anywhere before Friday. They also had no luck with a train, bus or rental car.
"We've had five flights cancelled, we've been in the airport we didn't sleep for 35 hours," Carrie Henson said.
Overnight, many Southwest passengers slept in the airport, exhausted and angry.
Sonia Konrad, 80, and her husband have been stranded here since Christmas Day. Their Philadelphia to Chicago to San Diego flight was canceled and re-booking has been a nightmare. They're now trying to get a flight back home to Philadelphia having missed the holiday with their son.
"Have some consideration," Konrad said. "I don't know it's just what do I do now? How do I get to Philadelphia? Start walking?"
Re-booking lines have been long. In many cases, the next available flight is days away.
Linn Zeder heading to California for a cruise.
"So if we don't get on the cruise today, we tried to look to see if we could fly to the next spot," Zeder said. "It was double the price of what the cruise is."
The sea of unclaimed baggage has been plaguing the airline for the past few days.
Jessica Ojeda is heading back to Denver without her bags.
"My luggage never got here," Ojeda said. "My trip is over and my luggage is still somewhere supposedly... we had to borrow clothes from family members and stuff just to get through."
Southwest in a statement said, "Our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.
"We anticipate additional changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the coming New Year holiday travel period."
Southwest said a system-wide waiver is in place through January 2.
"Customers holding any Southwest reservation from Sunday, December 25 through Monday, January 2, may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge," the airline said.
But according to one industry expert, passengers today may be entitled to more than that.
"Make sure you save those receipts because you're going to want to submit those to Southwest after the fact to see about getting your hotel, your meal, your taxi ride reimbursed, especially because it seems as though this is not a wave of cancellations that is weather-related the way it was earlier in the week," Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights said.
The cancellations are a result of bad weather wreaking havoc with Southwest's point-to-point network of flights, which is unique among major airlines.
"Southwest's problem is really is the system is out of kilter, and the snowstorm is moving, and they just haven't been able to reset the operation," said DePaul University professor and aviation expert Joe Schwieterman.
The U.S. Department of Transportation tweeted, "USDOT is concerned by Southwest's unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan."
"The storm was several days ago," Zeder said. "It's not like the storms are new. It's not like traveling during the holidays are new."
Southwest captain and union president Casey Murray told ABC News the situation was "catastrophic."
"It's been a failure at every level at Southwest. Our pilots, our front line employees have worked under enormous stress to try to get our passengers from A to B, but we were dealt a really bad hand as far as Southwest is concerned," Murray said.
The flight attendant union also released a statement, saying in part, "Southwest Airlines has failed its employees once again, the result of years of refusal to modernize operations, notes TWU Local 556, the union of Southwest Airlines flight attendants. And this time, it's on Christmas."
The Chicago Department of Aviation released a statement saying, "At the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), the highest priority is to create a safe, secure and efficient environment for passengers and employees.
"With the support of Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee, CDA staff, and partners at the airlines and the FAA, Chicago's airports support increased passenger volume over the holiday travel period.
"Passengers should check flight status with their airline in advance of coming to the airports."