Southwest cancels thousands of flights nationwide, blames woes on air traffic control issues and weather

U.S.

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Southwest Airlines continued to scrub flights on Monday, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a federal holiday, after thousands of its customers were left stranded due to widespread cancellations over the weekend.

According to Flightaware, a website that provides real-time flight insights, the carrier canceled 347 flights on Monday and delayed another 303 flights.

The airline had canceled more than 1,000 flights on Sunday, according to Flightaware. That’s 27% of the airline’s scheduled flights on the nation’s largest domestic airline. 

The Dallas-based airline had blamed air traffic control issues and weather for its weekend “operational challenges.” Southwest Airlines was the only airline to report the issues on that scale.

The airline released the following statement on Sunday: “We experienced significant impact in the Florida airports yesterday evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather and resulted in a large number of cancellations. We are working hard behind the scenes to minimize challenges and fully recover the operation as we take care of displaced Crews and Customers as quickly as possible.”

The FAA tweeted Sunday that there were no staffing shortages affecting air traffic control and that “some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”

Passengers have said they have been given very little information from the airline, and were wondering if there was also an issue affecting Southwest’s staffing — not air traffic controllers.

“It’s only two employees, they only have two people checking you in for luggage and tickets,” customer Kasena Jackson said.

“When I got to the line they rescheduled me on a flight tonight at 9, but that one was just canceled, too,” flyer Wendie Kaminski said Saturday.

Last week, Southwest became the latest airline to announce it was imposing a vaccine mandate on its staff. 

The company said its workers must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 in order to remain at the airline. Employees can seek approval to skip the shots due to medical or religious reasons.

SWAPA, the Southwest Airlines pilots union, said that while it was not against vaccines, “This announcement and lack of detail only fuels a growing divide that continues to erode the already strained relationship between Southwest Airlines and its Pilots’ Union.”

One analyst said a possible reason for the weekend outages may be a work slowdown by pilots who oppose the mandate. The pilots union denied it was part of a job action.

Southwest said it has to mandate vaccines because of new rules from the Biden administration requiring companies with federal contracts to have vaccinated staff.

Rivals American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue have already told their staff they needed to be vaccinated

The Associated Press and NewsNation’s Jasmine Cooper contributed to this report.

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