Last week’s winter travel mess lingers like a hangover into this week — and the headaches are proportionate to the migraine for Southwest Airlines and its frustrated passengers on Monday.
More than 3,600 flights within, to or from the United States had already been canceled as of 4:10 p.m. ET Monday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, while nearly 5,800 flights were delayed. .
But Southwest is a huge chunk of those. None of the other US carriers have canceled nearly as many flights or as much of their schedule as Southwest.
The Dallas-based airline had canceled about two-thirds of its flights — about 2,700 in total — as of 4:10 p.m. Monday, according to FlightAware. At one point, it canceled around 300 flights in the space of half an hour on Monday afternoon.
On social networks, customers complain loudly about long lines to speak with representatives, lost baggage issues, and excessive wait times or busy signals on airline customer service phone lines.
CNN’s Carlos Suarez spoke to frustrated passengers queuing at the Southwest counter at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.
He reported that around 150 customers waited in a long line at one point to rebook, with the line snaking around the back of the ticket office.
Southwest responded to the mass cancellations in an emailed statement Monday afternoon:
“With consecutive days of extreme winter conditions on our network behind us, the continued challenges are having a significant impact on our customers and employees, which is unacceptable,” the statement said.
“We are working with safety at the forefront to urgently address large-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet to better serve everyone planning to travel with us.
“On the other hand, we will work to make things right for those we have let down, including our employees.”
In an earlier statement to CNN on Monday, Southwest Airlines said it is “experiencing disruptions to our network due to the continuing effects (of the winter storm) on our entire operations.”
Some of the airports with the biggest problem are Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington and Dallas Love Field where Southwest operates.
Calls to Southwest customer service attempted Monday afternoon by CNN were unsuccessful, so customers couldn’t even wait in line to speak to a representative. Southwest told CNN he was “full to respond to calls.”
The airline also says that “those whose flights have been canceled can request a full refund or receive a flight credit, which does not expire.”
A Tweeter of the southwest directing customers to self-service options received more than 870 responses – many of them angry – around 4:30 p.m. ET
One of the answers said in part: “Stop blaming the WEATHER! I had to buy a first class ticket on another airline but it took off on time! You still have our luggage with medicine inside! Can’t get on the phone!”
Meanwhile, in hard-hit western New York, Buffalo International Airport said in its latest tweet that it plans to resume passenger flights at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
The temperature at the airport was 19 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius) around 4 p.m. ET, with light snow falling over the huge amounts the area has already seen.
If you’ve been abandoned and your efforts to reach a customer service agent are going nowhere, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights suggests trying an international number.
“The main US airline hotline will be congested with more passengers who will be re-booked. To quickly reach an agent, call one of the airline’s dozens of international offices,” said Scott Keyes.
“Agents can handle your booking like those based in the US, but there’s virtually no waiting to get through.”
Click here for the international numbers that Southwest has already published.
It could be next week before everything is completely settled.
“When there are over 10,000 flight cancellations over the past week, it takes time for airlines to work and readjust the backlog of travelers,” Keyes told CNN Travel in an email.
“While it depends on the weather forecast (which looks promising for much of the country) and the number of travelers canceling their vacation plans, I expect that by next week things will be largely back to normal. to normal,” Keyes told me.
And why do so many people find it difficult to rebook?
“A complicating factor for people hoping to be relocated is the fact that there are so few seats available this season,” Keyes said.
“This is both because Christmas and New Year are one of the most popular times of year for travel, and because the number of flights scheduled this year is still down 15-20% , which makes the challenge even more difficult for those who need to rebook. .”
Road travel remained hazardous in parts of the United States due to extreme winter conditions.
In Erie County in western New York state, emergency driving restrictions were lifted in some communities but remained in place in Buffalo, County Executive Mark Mark Poloncarz.
“The City of Buffalo is impassable in most areas, while mainlines may have an open lane or two for emergency traffic, most side streets as well as side streets have yet to be impacted” , said Poloncarz.
He added that the main roads cleared are mainly for the use of rescue measures to open up areas around hospitals and nursing homes.
A winter storm that swept across the United States was inopportune for travelers who had begun to push the number of Christmas week flights back to pre-pandemic levels.
On Christmas Day, 3,178 flights were canceled and 6,870 were delayed, according to FlightAware.
On Christmas Eve, there were a total of 3,487 canceled flights, according to FlightAware.
Friday was the worst day in that streak with 5,934 cancellations, while Thursday saw nearly 2,700 cancellations.
This winter weather megablast in the eastern two-thirds of the country is expected to slowly moderate this week.
More developments to come on this breaking news.