Chicago (WLS) — Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights across the country on Monday, leaving travelers stranded at Midway Airport after the Christmas holiday.
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Southwest had canceled 70% of their total Monday flights by 7 p.m. CT, and had already canceled 60% of their flights for Tuesday, according to ABC News. Phone lines are down due to the high volume of calls, and the airline’s website and app are only functional intermittently.
By contrast, American Airlines, which has a hub in Chicago, canceled only 12 flights on Monday and nine on Tuesday.
All setbacks are expected to take a week or more to recover from.
Baggage piled up at Midway’s baggage claim, where hundreds of bags formed a sea of luggage as far as the eye could see. But there are some who are restoring them. The bags are flying without their owners and have been for days.
“I wish I had a backpack because now they’re telling me the flight is canceled because they don’t have enough help, they don’t have enough flight attendants to handle the whole flight. Now we’re trying to retrieve our luggage but they’re saying ‘our luggage will go to Raleigh Durham without us.’ ,” said John Ruh, whose flight was canceled.
“I left New Orleans two and a half days ago. Canceled. Delayed. Canceled. Delayed. Canceled,” Carolyn Irving said as she tried to find her bags. “I hope I can find it, for there is medicine in my luggage. The presents are in it. But you call, and no one picks up.”
Unlike other airlines, Southwest flies mostly point-to-point. Now their planes are scattered in the wrong places after last weeks winter storm, which affected not only their Midway hub, but Denver as well.
Southwest captain and union president Casey Murray told ABC News the situation was “catastrophic.”
“This has failed Southwest at every level. Our pilots, our front-line staff worked under great stress to get our passengers from A to B, but as far as Southwest is concerned we were dealt a very bad hand.” Murray said.
The flight attendants union also released a statement saying, “Southwest Airlines has failed its employees once again, as a result of years of refusing to modernize operations, according to TWU Local 556, the Southwest Airlines flight attendants union. This time, it’s on Christmas.”
Southwest released a statement saying, “With a series of severe winter weather behind us on our network, the continued challenges are significantly impacting our customers and employees, which is unacceptable.
“Our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.
“We are leading the way with safety to urgently address the wide range of disruptions by reconfiguring the aircraft and adapting crews and our fleet to better serve everyone who plans to travel with us.”
But according to one industry expert, travelers today can get more than that.
“Make sure you save those receipts because you want to submit them to Southwest to see if they can reimburse you for your hotel, your meals, your taxi ride, especially if it looks like it’s not a wave of cancellations. It’s related to the weather earlier in the week,” says Scott Kelly of Scott’s Cheap Flights. said.
The lines to check your bag were so long Monday morning that Menda Speckles and her children missed their flight back to Texas.
“We got here at 3:30 for a 5:20 flight. And the lines were crazy,” he said.
It was a nightmare for people traveling on Christmas holidays.
Hundreds of flights were canceled each day from O’Hare and Midway. Thousands across the country were canceled or delayed.
Monday was unfortunately no different.
“Stuck here,” Ayana Ortiz said. “The flight was cancelled, so we’re waiting to see if they’ll rebook us.”
Ortiz got up early, got here at 3:45 a.m. and found out their flight was canceled.
“It’s a bit frustrating,” she said. “We chose an early flight to get back to bed quickly. But it didn’t turn out that way.”
Although perhaps worse, Anna Kang. She is trying to fly to San Diego from O’Hare on Sunday afternoon.
“Two flights were cancelled,” he said. “I waited in line for about an hour and a half to book another flight at another airport. So I went from O’Hare to Midway.”
Her flight had to be canceled at Midway on Sunday night.
“We found it around 1 a.m. this morning,” Kang said. “So I’ve been up all night since last night. Here? Here. I was here last night about 8 o’clock.”
Southwest Airlines was particularly hard hit. That’s evident at Midway, where Southwest has the longest lines to pick up tickets.
Frustrated passengers are now resorting to Plan B.
“So now we’re going back to Austin,” Speckles said. “Seventeen hours. I managed to find a rental car. There aren’t many out there, but I managed to find one. So I think we’re going to be back here in a minute. Because there aren’t any flights? No. Nothing.”
The Chicago Department of Aviation released a statement saying, “At the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), the highest priority is to create a safe, secure and efficient environment for passengers and employees.
“With the support of Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and CTA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee, CTA staff and stakeholders at the airlines and the FAA, Chicago’s airports are helping boost passenger numbers during the holiday season.
“Passengers should check flight status with their airline before arriving at airports.”
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