Orlando International Airport sees hundreds of canceled, delayed flights after Christmas

Thousands of flights cancelled across the country over Christmas weekend due to major winter storm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Christmas is over, but the holiday travel rush at Orlando International Airport is not.

According to FlightAware, more than 200 flights were cancelled by Monday night, and nearly 500 flights were delayed.

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Those numbers beat the 178 total cancelations out of the airport on Christmas Day. At least six more flights are already canceled for Tuesday.

“I’m just trying to get home and be with wonderful people at home,” Michael Bauzon said.

Bauzon and his family had plans to be home for Christmas in Indianapolis, but unfortunately their Southwest flight got cancelled on Friday.

The four of them were forced to spend the holidays at a hotel and there is still no word when they’ll be able to get back.

I have to stand in that long line. And when I stand in that long line – I mean it’s a four to five hour line – full-service Southwest, before they can get us on a flight, if they can get us on a flight,” Bauzon said.

News 6 was there to see the long lines outside the Southwest ticket counter on Monday. Per FlightAware, the airline has canceled more than 60% of its flights nationwide.

According to the airline, Southwest has been experiencing higher volumes of calls and social inquiries as a major winter storm continues to rage in the U.S.

“This safety-first work is intentional, ongoing and necessary to return to normal reliability, one that minimizes last-minute inconveniences,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement. “We anticipate additional changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the coming New Year holiday travel period. And we’re working to reach to customers whose travel plans will change with specific information and their available options.”

In a travel advisory, Southwest Airlines said that it would put a system-wide waiver into place for passengers who experienced a “disruption in service” through Jan. 2.

“I’m upset. Southwest should’ve been a little bit more prepared for this, and they weren’t,” said passenger John Santana. “And now, we’re all suffering.”

Meanwhile, many travelers arriving at the airport discovered their bags didn’t make the trip.

Melanie Qadir flew Southwest from San Francisco. Her original layover flight to Orlando on Saturday was canceled, forcing her to spend the night in Dallas, Texas.

Qadir eventually arrived in Orlando on Christmas, though she had to return to the airport Monday to try to find out the location of her bags.

“Luckily, we packed some things in our carry-on,” Qadir said. “But I’m going to have to pick some stuff up. We have a lack of stuff and our presents. It’s really frustrating.”

Qadir said Southwest blamed her travel disruptions on bad weather, but she noted weather was fair along her route to Orlando International Airport.

“There’s no storms here. There’s no storms in San Francisco. There’s no storms in Las Vegas,” Qadir said.

Jennifer Chapman was supposed to fly from Orlando to Nova Scotia Monday. Now, she won’t get a flight out until Wednesday — putting her arrival time at early Thursday morning.

“Air Canada is doing nothing for us, so we ended up booking a hotel that we will have to pay for ourselves and come back to the airport on Wednesday,” Chapman said. “We’re lucky. It was basically, ‘Take that (flight), or we don’t know when you’ll get home.’”

Passengers like Tim Mitchell also voiced their frustrations to News 6. Mitchell said he was trying to get on a plane to Washington, D.C., but flight attendants told him he may be stuck until Friday.

“Very inconvenient — didn’t plan on staying this long, so I’m ready to get out of here,” Mitchell said. “I had a good time down here, but it’s time to go.”

The problem wasn’t just at Orlando International Airport. Thousands of flights were cancelled across the country over Christmas weekend due to the storm. In addition, the airport’s busiest day is expected to hit Jan. 2.

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About the Authors:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.