Southwest Airlines cancels at least 70% of flights leaving travelers stranded, call centers swamped

The Dallas-based airline has canceled more than half of its flights -- more than 2,300 total flights -- as 2:30 p.m. ET Monday.

ByForrest Brown, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
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Last week's winter weather travel mess is lingering like a hangover into this week -- and the headaches are migraine-proportioned for Southwest Airlines and its frustrated passengers on Monday.

More than 3,200 flights within, into or out of the US had already been canceled by 2:30 p.m. ET Monday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, while almost 5,000 flights had been delayed.

But Southwest accounts for a whopping share of those.

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The Dallas-based airline has canceled more than half of its flights -- more than 2,300 total flights -- as 2:30 p.m. ET Monday, according to FlightAware.

On social media, customers are complaining about long lines to speak with representatives, problems with lost bags and excessive wait times or busy signals on the airline's customer service telephone lines.

'Disruptions across our network'

In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines said it is "experiencing disruptions across our network as a result of (the winter storm's) lingering effects on the totality of our operation."

Some of the airports seeing the biggest issue are Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington, and Dallas Love Field where Southwest operates.

Calls to Southwest's customer service attempted Monday afternoon by CNN did not go through, so customers couldn't even get in the queue to speak to a representative. Southwest told CNN it is "fully staffed to answer calls."

RELATED: Winter storm leaves at least 49 dead nationwide; NY residents remain trapped under feet of snow

The airline also says, "those whose flights have been canceled may request a full refund or receive a flight credit, which does not expire."

Meanwhile, in hard-hit western New York, Buffalo International Airport said in its most recent tweet that it plans to resume passenger flights at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The temperature at the airport was 18 degrees Fahrenheit around 2 p.m. ET, with light snow falling on top of the huge amounts the area has already seen.

Read Southwest's full statement below:

We are still experiencing disruptions across our network as a result of Winter Storm lingering effects on the totality of our operation. With the weather now considerably more favorable, we continue work to stabilize and improve our operation.

We are re-accommodating as many Customers as possible, based on available space, whose itineraries have been disrupted. Those whose flights have been canceled may request a full refund or receive a flight credit, which does not expire. Information for Customers with lost baggage is here: ... Customers can also speak with a representative at the baggage service office in an airport where we operate or contact Southwest customer service, though we are experiencing abnormally high call volumes.

The operational emergency you're referencing are routine emergency sick procedures (enacted at our DEN operation) ...when that occurs, it puts parameters in place-like requiring a doctor's note when an Employee returns to work if they call in sick-so that we can ensure Reliability for our Customers by having the necessary amount of available, working staff.

Bad Road Conditions

Road travel remained treacherous in parts of the US because of extreme wintry conditions.

In New York state's western Erie County, emergency restrictions on driving were lifted in some communities but remained in place in Buffalo, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday.

"The City of Buffalo is impassable in most areas, while mains may have a lane open for emergency traffic or two, most secondaries as well as side streets have not been touched yet," Poloncarz said.

He adding that the cleared main roads are primarily for the use of life-saving measures to open up areas around hospitals and nursing homes.

A Rough Past Week

A winter storm that swept across the US was ill-timed for travelers who had started pushing Christmas week flying numbers back toward pre-pandemic levels.

On Christmas Day, there were 3,178 flights canceled and 6,870 flight delayed, according to FlightAware.

On Christmas Eve, there were a total of 3,487 flights canceled, according to FlightAware.

Friday was the worst day of this streak with 5,934 cancellations, while Thursday saw almost 2,700 cancellations.

This megablast of winter weather across the eastern two-thirds of the nation is forecast to slowly moderate this week.

More developments to come on this breaking news story.

Southwest has opened a self-service tool to help travelers impacted by their travel disruptions. If your flight has been significantly delayed or canceled, visit Southwest Airlines' website here to request a refund and other services you are entitled to.

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