Travelers ‘disappointed’ by Southwest Airlines cancellation: ‘It’s been hell’

Travelers 'disappointed' by Southwest Airlines cancellation: 'It's been hell'
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The winter storm that disrupted travel plans over the weekend and created an epic pile of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines has left the carrier’s passengers “beyond disappointed.” one put it on CBS DFW. Thousands of families were stranded, waiting for several days to board the plane.

Now, two Democratic senators are calling on the carrier to make travelers whole with “substantial monetary compensation for the disruption of their vacation plans.”

“Southwest plans to pay a $428 million dividend next year — the company can do right by the consumers it’s harmed,” said Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. said on Tuesday.

Southwest had canceled more than 2,660 scheduled flights, or 65%, by 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, according to the flight tracking website. FlightAware. That accounted for more than half of the nearly 5,000 flights canceled today. Other airlines continued to experience delays, with Southwest leading the way with 870 delayed flights.

Southwest Air customer Talia Jones told CBS DFW that she “was upset and hurt that I couldn’t see my dad. Yeah, it was very disappointing.”

As of Monday afternoon, the board at Dallas’ Love Field, Southwest’s home base, indicated that every arrival had been canceled, according to reporter Kelly Laco.

At Chicago’s Midway International Airport, where Southwest is the main carrier, wait times were high and patience was running out Monday night. This was reported by CBS Chicago.

The situation was described by one traveler as nothing short of a mess. In addition to long lines taking up space, there were hundreds and hundreds of bags waiting to be claimed as cancellations and delays continued to pile up.

“It was hell,” said Denzil Smothers, whose flight was canceled.

People also took to social media to blast Southwest, including one Twitter user on Tuesday placed Video of bags being picked up at Midway Airport in Chicago.

“We know the irregular operations are frustrating for everyone involved, and we are truly sorry for any frustration,” Southwest said in a statement. he said A traveler frustrated by the flurry of canceled flights on Twitter.

On Monday, the federal Department of Transportation said it would investigate the crash, saying it was “concerned about Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable cancellation and delay rates, as well as the lack of adequate support for customers experiencing cancellations or delays.”

“As more information becomes available, the Department will closely examine whether the cancellations are manageable and consistent with Southwest’s customer service plan, as well as all other applicable DOT regulations,” he said.

Traveler Michael Bauzon and his family planned to fly out of Orlando International Airport on Friday to return home for Christmas on Sunday. Instead, the four spent the vacation at a hotel after their flight was canceled, Bauzon told CBS affiliate WKMG, and returned to the airport Monday — where they continued to wait.

“We got here at 4:30 this morning for the 7:05 flight, looked at it and it had just been canceled,” he said, gesturing to the line in front of the Southwest service counter. “It’s a four- to five-hour line … before they get us on the flight — if they can get us on the flight,” he said.

Southwest is canceling more than 2,800 flights
Passengers line up in front of the Southwest Airlines counter at San Francisco International Airport in December. 26, 2022.

Typhoon Coshkun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Widespread storm, outdated technology

In a statement Monday that opened with a “heartfelt apology,” Southwest said its geography, with half of the airports it flies to affected by winter weather, made it “uniquely” vulnerable to the storm.

“We were fully staffed and prepared for the upcoming holiday weekend when Southwest swept across the continent as the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 US travel markets. It still has the tools our teams are using to restore an airline operating at capacity.” statement he said.

In a video statement Tuesday, CEO Bob Jordan said many of the carrier’s aircraft and crew are “out of position in dozens of locations.”

“After days of trying to meet our full schedule over a busy holiday weekend, we’ve decided to significantly reduce our flights to catch up,” Jordan said. “We are focused on putting all the pieces safely back in place to quickly end this rolling battle.”

Jordan said he was “optimistic” that the airline would be “back on the road before next week”.

“As we approach the upcoming New Year holiday travel period, we anticipate further changes with already reduced flights,” the company said in a statement.

The company also blames a lack of technology. “Part of what we’ve struggled with is a lack of tools. We’ve talked a lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that,” CEO Bob Jordan said in an internal message Sunday, reported by several media outlets. outlets and flight attendants union.

Jordan said in a video message that “the tools we use to recover from a failure serve us well 99% of the time, but it’s clear that we need to double down on our plans to upgrade systems for these extreme situations so that we don’t have that happen again. Now.”

Now, many are calling on Southwest to do more than apologize. meaning Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts demand that the carrier provide cash to compensate travelers for their inconvenience. They emphasize that the company, which plans to pay a dividend of $428 million next year, “can do right by the consumers it has harmed.”

“Southwest cannot avoid compensating passengers by claiming that these flight cancellations were caused by recent winter storms. As Southwest executives have admitted, yesterday’s massive cancellations were largely due to their own internal systems failure,” they said.

In a video message, Jordan said he was in touch with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “to continue our discussions with DOT over the holidays, to share everything we’re doing to make things right for our customers.”

Congested telephone lines, systems

Meanwhile, the flight attendants’ union, Transit Workers Union 556, accused the airline of contributing to the problem by underinvesting in technology for years.

“The lack of technology has forced the airline to rely on manual solutions and personal phone calls, forcing flight attendants to wait up to 17 hours on Southwest Airlines after a trip or simply to be let home while trying to secure them. hotel room or know where their next trip will be,” the union said in a statement. “While it is understood that rerouting and rescheduling are part of the business of the aviation industry, the sheer scale of the failure over the past few days points to years of abdication of responsibility to invest in and deploy technology that could help solve the problem. many problems that concern both flight attendants and passengers”.

The union and the airline have been in contract negotiations for four years.

The Public Interest Research Group on Tuesday called for an overhaul of airline regulations and tougher penalties for carriers with chronically delayed or canceled flights.

“While terrible weather is no one’s fault, the way travelers are treated and accommodated – or not – rests squarely on the shoulders of most airlines,” said PIRG consumer watchdog Teresa Murray.

— With reporting by Zel Elvi, Kathryn Krupnik, Chris Van Cleave and Brian Daxs.

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