LOS ANGELES -- A California couple had to take an 8-hour train ride back home as the Southwest flight debacle continues to affect people's holiday travel plans.
Mandy Brown and her husband Chris arrived at the Hollywood Burbank Airport Monday evening only to learn their flight to Sacramento had been canceled.
With hotels booked, they slept at the airport overnight.
"You just don't even have words because you don't know what's really going on," said Mandy.
The Browns were forced to take an Amtrak train back to Sacramento Tuesday.
"Knowing the storm is coming, knowing you have already had delays a couple days ago, there should have been contingency plans in place," said Chris.
Problems at Southwest Airlines appeared to snowball after the worst of the storm passed. It canceled more than 70% of its flights Monday, more than 60% on Tuesday, and warned that it would operate just over a third of its usual schedule in the days ahead to allow crews to get back to where they needed to be.
The disparity has triggered a closer look at Southwest operations by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which called the rate of cancellations "disproportionate and unacceptable," and sought to ensure that the Dallas carrier was sticking by its obligations to stranded customers.
Our sister station KABC-TV was over the Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday morning and captured nearly every Southwest aircraft grounded. More than half of the airlines' flights at LAX were canceled.
Over at the Burbank airport, 82% of Southwest flights were canceled.
"It's a terrible situation but I am at least thankful that my flight is going to get to Phoenix, but I feel bad for everyone else," said Anton Dormer of Newbury Park.
Jasmine Figueroa, a 20-year-old mother who was attempting to fly home to Houston, said Southwest told her it can't guarantee her flight will make it.
"I don't want to get stuck in the airport for hours with the baby so I said, 'Ok, I guess I've got to rebook my flight.' They were like, 'Yeah, the earliest we can rebook your flight is the first of next year.'"
Southwest spokesman Jay McVay said at a press conference in Houston that cancellations snowballed as storm systems moved across the country, leaving flight crews and planes out of place.
"So we've been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and get back to normal safely, which is our number one priority as quickly as we could," he said. "And that's exactly how we ended up where we are today."
Meanwhile, the president of the union representing Southwest pilots blamed the lack of crews to fly planes on scheduling software written in the 1990s and on management that he said failed to fix things after previous meltdowns, including a major disruption in October 2021.
"There is a lot of frustration because this is so preventable," said the union official, Capt. Casey Murray. "The airline cannot connect crews to airplanes. I'm concerned about this weekend. I'm concerned about a month from now."
Some passengers told Eyewitness News that though their ongoing loyalty to the world's largest low-cost carrier is a bit tarnished, they're keeping the faith.
"I'll have some trust issues I won't lie," said one traveler. "But I've flown with them for like a long time and I think after everything settles back out, I will take a look at it again."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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.