Controversy over flight cancellations during the storm in the US: seven out of 10 were from a single company

Southwest Airlines passengers line up to retrieve their luggage after a flight cancellation in Los Angeles (AP)
Southwest Airlines passengers line up to retrieve their luggage after a flight cancellation in Los Angeles (AP)

The flight cancellations and delays related to the weather conditions that affected US commercial air traffic during the holiday weekend lasted until this Monday, being southwest Airlines responsible for most of the persistent interruptions the day after Christmas.

According to the FlightAware flight tracking service, more than 3,800 flights were canceled on Monday US airlines, 2,800 of them operated by Southwestnamely, almost 70% of the total scheduled for that day.

By Tuesday night, Southwest had canceled 2,870 flights, 70% of those scheduled for the day. Images at airports showed the enormous amount of baggage accumulated. By comparison, Delta canceled 8% of trips on Monday.

In total, there were registered delays in more than 7,100 departures and arrivals of American flights, several hundred of them from Southwest. According to FlightAware data, airports across the United States experienced cancellations and delays, including Denver, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle, Baltimore, and Chicago.

Passenger luggage from a canceled flight (AP)
Passenger luggage from a canceled flight (AP)

The Dallas-based airline, one of the world’s largest low-cost carriers, said it anticipated the disruptions to continue in the days leading up to the New Year’s holiday travel period later this week.

Southwest added that the weather was improving, which would “stabilize and improve our situation.”

Other issues that have compounded the airline’s struggles to adjust to the holiday rush include problems “connecting flight crews to their schedules,” Southwest spokesman Chris Perry told npr. That problem has made it difficult for employees to access crew scheduling services and obtain reassignments.

It has been catastrophic, a failure at all levels. Our processes, our information technologies and our infrastructure were not ready to support the operation and unfortunately our customers are bearing the brunt of it,” said Capt. Casey Murray, President of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and Capt. of southwest.

Southwest Airlines passengers sit with their luggage in the check-in area due to delays and cancellations at Laguardia Airport in New York (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Southwest Airlines passengers sit with their luggage in the check-in area due to delays and cancellations at Laguardia Airport in New York (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The US Department of Transportation said late Monday that it would examine the large number of canceled and delayed Southwest Airlines flights in recent days to determine whether they were under the airline’s control, calling them “unacceptable”.

Harriet Kingsbury, an Oakland resident, commented: “It’s never been this crowded, it’s crazy.” After a four-hour delay, Kingsbury managed to make it home to Oakland. She was one of the lucky ones. “It’s total chaossaid Mike Bolen, a Napa Valley resident.

Commercial air traffic has been disrupted since last week, when an arctic gust coupled with a huge winter storm nicknamed Elliott took shape over the Midwest and swept across much of the United States on the eve of the Christmas holiday weekend.

The consequent increase in cancellations and delays, along with long queues and lost luggage at airports, ruined the winter vacation plans of countless customers of US airlines during one of the busiest periods of the year for travelers.

The storm coincides with a report from the Transportation Security Administration that says holiday travel volume was close to pre-pandemic levels, with the busiest on Thursday, three days before Christmas.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) had estimated that more than 112 million people will travel more than 80 kilometers between last Friday and January 2, the vast majority by car.

(With information from Reuters, AP, AFP)

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