Thousands of Southwest Airlines’ travelers remained stranded at airports across the country Tuesday morning as the fallout from a powerful winter storm that pounded much of the nation continued to ground hundreds of flights and disrupt passengers’ holiday travel plans.
Airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights Tuesday morning, the majority of them — 2,526 flights — with Southwest Airlines, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
At Los Angeles International Airport, 59 flights were canceled as of 6 a.m. Tuesday, and 27 were delayed.
John Wayne Airport had 51 Southwest flights canceled and two delayed Tuesday morning, while San Diego saw some of the biggest disruptions, with 89 Southwest flights canceled and 19 delayed, according to Flight Aware. At Hollywood Burbank Airport, 18 Southwest flights — or two-thirds of its services — were canceled, according to the mobile flight tracker Flightview.
In California, hundreds of flights have been delayed or canceled through the end of the week — making up much of the Southwest schedule.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told the Wall Street Journal the airline planned to operate at around one-third of regular capacity as it tries to regroup and get the schedule back on track.
“This is the largest scale event that I’ve ever seen,” he said.
The nightmarish travel scenario played out similarly on Monday, in which 4,000 flights were canceled. Southwest Airlines dropped nearly 70% of its scheduled flights nationwide — some 2,905 flights, far more than any other major U.S. carrier — as of Monday evening, according to FlightAware.
Southwest Airlines blamed a catastrophic winter storm that swept across the northern half of the country over the holiday weekend for the cancellations, adding in a statement that “our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning. … We recognize falling short and sincerely apologize.”
Furious and weary travelers unloaded on Twitter, flooding Southwest with reports of the headaches they’ve experienced and continue to face. Passengers described waiting on long lines that extended outside of airport terminals, missing luggage that in some cases traveled onward despite canceled flights or piled up unclaimed for days, waiting on customer service calls for hours or repeatedly getting disconnectedand trying to navigate a glitchy website.
Some passengers said they didn’t receive an email or text message about their flight’s status, and instead learned through a notice on the company’s app. Many also questioned the airline’s statement that the weather was the culprit, pointing out that other airlines were operating with fewer disruptions and that part of the problem could be a staffing issue.
The cancellations even affected the Los Angeles political class. Newly elected L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath was left stranded in Las Vegas after her flight on Southwest back to Los Angeles was canceled, she said on Twitter Monday evening. Horvath said that no other flights were available to book on Southwest, and that any other flight back to Los Angeles would cost an inordinate amount of money.
“Because of @SouthwestAir my only chance at getting home is to spend $400+ one way on another airline & arrive [Tuesday] afternoon (& cancel vet appt & work mtgs). Un. Real. Who can afford this? Not working families or young people who get to go home once a year for holidays,” Horvath said in a tweet.
The paralyzing winter storm hit two of Southwest’s biggest hubs particularly hard, Chicago and Denver.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon that it was “concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays,” as well as reports of a “lack of prompt customer service.”
“The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan,” the agency said in a tweet.