Passengers frustrated as Southwest Airlines cancels more than 1,000 flights

Southwest blames weather, air traffic control problems

Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend, blaming the woes on air traffic control issues and weather.

The airline canceled more than 1,000 flights in total, or 29% of its schedule, as of 7 p.m. Sunday, according to flight tracker FlightAware.

That was the highest rate by far of the major U.S. airlines. Next in line was Allegiant, which canceled 6% of its flights. American Airlines canceled 5% of its flights, while Spirit canceled 4% on Sunday, according to the flight tracker. On Saturday, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 800 flights.

Southwest Airlines said in an emailed statement that it had experienced weather challenges in its Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, which were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region.

Those issues triggered delays and prompted significant cancellations for the airlines beginning Friday evening. They went on to say, “We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our customers.”

Passengers at the Orlando International Airport Sunday said they’ve seen delays and cancellations since Friday.

Lisa Sandoval said her flight was delayed Sunday trying to make it back to Dallas, Texas. She traveled to Orlando this weekend to visit her brother, but said she rented a car and drove to Orlando Friday from Fort Myers, all because her connecting flight to OIA, she said, never left the runway.

“We all moved seats and they were like this flight’s cancelled then I was like what? They were like you need to get off the plane,” said Sandoval. “Very, very inconvenient.”

Southwest Airlines cancelled hundreds of flights nationwide over the weekend. We checked, and that includes 71 flights in Orlando from Saturday night to Monday morning.

In an updated statement released Tuesday, Southwest Airlines said they expect operations to return to normal Tuesday with around 90 system-wide cancellations out of 3,300 flights.

The FAA released a statement saying, “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread severe weather, military training, and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center. Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules.”

Teresa Edwards and her family were in Orlando this past week to enjoy Disney. They saw delays Sunday too trying to make it back to Buffalo, New York.

“It was supposed to be a later flight, then they switched it to an early flight then they switched it now like four times,” said Edwards.

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.