Southwest Airlines apologizes for flight cancellations and delays nationwide

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An intense winter storm has caused a spate of flight cancellations and delays at airports nationwide and across Southern California, more so than expected during the bustling holiday season.

While Southern California’s airports were especially hard hit, just about every airport could not escape the crunch.

“The airlines are catching up with the major effects of this winter storm,” said Los Angeles International Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery. “The breadth of this particular winter storm really trickled down to just about everybody. All the major airports saw similar issues.”

Southwest Airlines, one of the most popular airlines due to its low-cost fares and flexible ticketing policy, had to apologize Monday for operational challenges causing long delays at LAX and other airports nationwide due to the winter storm.

“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest said in a news release Monday. “We are working with safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by re-balancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet, ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us. And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”

Elle Magruder, 20, rests at Ontario International Airport on Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, while waiting on her delayed flight home to Dallas. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Southwest canceled more than 2,700 flights Monday, close to two-thirds of its scheduled total, according to the tracking website FlightAware.

LAX reported 162 cancelled flights and 319 delayed flights involving multiple airlines on Monday, plus 174 flights with more extended delays by 45 minutes or more, Montgomery said.

Of those 162 cancelled flights, 85 were scheduled for arrival at the airport and 77 were outbound. As for the delayed flights, 101 were scheduled for arrival and 218 were outbound. And of the extended delayed flights, 73 were arrivals and 103 were departures, Montgomery said.

“That’s about half the (flight) schedule that has been impacted today overall. The silver lining is we do have about half the scheduled flights operating on time or early, so that’s a big chunk of flights,” Montgomery said.

He said the number of flight cancellations was unusual, even for one of the busiest times of the year.

At Ontario International Airport there were 21 cancelled arrivals and 14 delayed arrival flights on Monday, according to FlightAware.

“Our airline partners have done a great job of getting ahead of things and alerting passengers as soon they possibly can when changes occur.  Obviously, this is an extreme situation that has impacted airline travel nationwide,” airport spokesman Steve Lambert said in a statement Monday. “If passengers have questions or concerns, they should work directly with their airline. In the meantime, we are here to make their experience at the airport itself as convenient as possible.”

Southwest said it was fully staffed late last week and prepared for the approaching Christmas weekend when severe weather swept across the continent.

“This forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity,” Southwest said. “This safety-first work is intentional, ongoing, and necessary to return to normal reliability, one that minimizes last-minute inconveniences.”

Other Southern California airports affected included John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Hollywood Burbank Airport and Palm Springs International Airport. While FlightAware did not note any cancelled or delayed arrival flights at Palm Springs, it did log 12 cancelled departures and 22 delayed departures on Monday.

At Hollywood Burbank, there were 45 cancelled arrival flights and 10 delayed flights, and there were 49 cancelled departure flights and nine delayed departures, according to FlightAware.

At John Wayne Airport on Monday, 56 departing flights were canceled as were 48 arrivals, FlightAware reported.

Extreme weather conditions are impacting travel throughout the nation. At JWA, Southwest flights have been especially impacted. Passengers are advised to contact their airline for flight information. Airlines serving JWA https://t.co/L3QllDfpdz

— John Wayne Airport (@JohnWayneAir) December 27, 2022

 

Southwest was working with its passengers on rebooking their flights or providing overnight accommodations at nearby hotels, John Wayne spokesperson AnnaSophia Servin said.

City News Service contributed to this report

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