Southwest cancels dozens of flights

January 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Wild weather pounded Southern California on Thursday with heavy rain, snow, and a tornado in Ventura. Residents said it sounded like a freight train. It tore the roof off a barn, toppled trees, and damaged cars.

Also in Arizona the wind blew over two big tents at an auto auction in Scottsdale. Thousands of people managed to get out OK, but the wind caused major damage to the tents and some very expensive cars.

The effects of that extreme weather in Arizona and Southern California were felt here in the Bay Area.

At the Oakland International Airport there were lots of passengers stuck waiting after Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 400 flights on Thursday - 61 of them going in or out of the Bay Area.

Cancelled is the one word air travelers hate to see, but at the Oakland airport it was simply unavoidable.

"We got here for a 4:55 flight, which they changed to 7:05 and then as we were sitting there they told us that flight was cancelled completely," said Southwest passenger Jeri Yancey.

As miserable as it is been in the Bay Area, it was not the weather here that was to blame. Instead, it was the heavy rain and dangerous crosswinds in Southern California and Arizona.

Southwest cancelled more than 400 flights today going to and from Burbank, Ontario, Orange County, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson.

Lisa Lopez says it is better to be cautious. She says her flight from Ontario to Oakland Wednesday was crazy.

"I'd rather them cancel the flight and have me safe than to experience that turbulence again. Yeah, the plane was like [extremely rocky]," said Southwest passenger Lisa Lopez.

For workers at the ticket counter, it is been a busy day trying to help passengers find another way out. Travelers have certainly been persistent. Keith Grandbois' got a midnight flight to Ontario after his 4 p.m. flight was cancelled. Nevertheless, he returned to the line, hoping to do better.

"I'm pressing my luck, I'm rolling the dice. I mean, what's the worst that's going to happen so I'll try to get on standby on some of the other flights, if not I land at about 1 in the morning," says Grandbois.

Some passengers did hear that others decided to rent a car and drive down to Southern California, but Elena Rodriguez decided against it. She says waiting around at the airport hasn't been too big of a deal.

"I'm going from coffee shop to coffee shop and it's a good thing I have a book in my bag," says passenger Elena Rodriguez.

Southwest does its best to call each passenger affected by a cancellation, but the airline still recommends passengers check their website for more information.