Dozens of Southwest Airlines flights canceled, delayed at Midway Airport amid holiday travel rush

Chicago fog, low visibility to blame, Southwest Airlines says

Monday, December 25, 2023
Dozens of Southwest flights canceled, delayed at Midway
Southwest Airlines travelers are frustrated with Midway flight cancellations on Sunday amid a temporary ground stop reported by the FAA.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There has been so much frustration for travelers at Midway Airport on Sunday night.

The bulk of them are flying with Southwest Airlines, and many have been dealing with delays and cancellations since Saturday.

The fog from overnight certainly was the beginning of this setback for Southwest, and now, many might miss Christmas with their loved ones.

Christmas plans are on the line for thousands of travelers trying to get in and out of Chicago. Midway has been packed with frustrated people, many of them sitting there for hours as the delays and cancellations continue.

"Just a lot of disappointment, man," said Chris, who is flying to Texas. "Supposed to leave yesterday, and just trying to get to family in Texas, and it's just frustrating."

Southwest told ABC7 that the problems started Saturday with that dense fog, forcing delays and cancellations because of low visibility.

People like Jeannine have seen the worst of it. She has been traveling for 28 hours, just to reach Chicago and find out her luggage is missing.

"Get here and they've been telling me for hours and hours my luggage is going to arrive at 3:24, and then 3:48, and now, she finally said it's just stuck on an airplane out there," said Jeannine, who flew in from Los Angeles.

Many of these travelers understand that the fog and weather is not something an airline can control, but they feel like Southwest has left them hanging without a proper contingency plan.

"Southwest doesn't have any safety net. Clearly, they sell every seat or oversell it. They oversell and under-deliver," Jeannine said.

This all comes after Southwest's meltdown around Christmas last year, when the airline canceled 17,000 flights, leaving more than 2 million passengers stranded.

Just last week, Southwest was hit with a $140 million fine by the federal government from that travel nightmare. The Department of Transportation said Southwest has already paid $600 million in reimbursements and refunds to passengers.

"I know I picked a real winner for this Christmas," said Mark Washington, a Southwest customer.

Southwest said it has all hands on deck and is trying to recover from the backlog of delays and cancellations. But that's left some wondering if they'll even make it to their Christmas destination at this point.

"Last time I checked, it's for me to get in 9:10 tomorrow night, and by that time, it's pretty much no point," said Braxton, who is flying to Houston.

Southwest issued a statement later Sunday evening, saying, We're working with our Customers whose travel is impacted by fog at Chicago Midway that began Saturday night and prevented inbound aircraft from landing, forcing some diversions and subsequent flight cancelations. With visibility remaining below required operational minimums throughout the night and continuing this morning, we've modified our planned start for today (Sunday) at Chicago Midway. We have all-hands on deck as our Employees are working to quickly take care of our Customers and accommodate them on alternative flights.

Chicago Midway is our fourth busiest airport operation, with more than 200 departures a day scheduled over the holiday weekend. As a result of the fog at Midway, we have canceled approximately 70 flights for Sunday (less than 1% of our total flights of 4242 systemwide), which are mostly originating and morning flights from Midway. We are now operating the remainder of our schedule, but we continue to experience cancellations and delays as our operation recovers. We apologize for the inconvenience to our Customers as we work to get them to their destination safely.

We are fully staffed and all gates are open and operating as we speak.

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