Thousands of travellers were stranded at US airports on Monday as a wave of cancelled flights — many of them operated by Southwest Airlines — spoiled holiday plans and kept families from returning home during one of the busiest and most stressful travel stretches of the year.
The cancellations and delays one day after Christmas left people sleeping on airport floors, standing in customer service lines and waiting on tarmacs for hours on end.
The problems are likely to continue into Tuesday and later this week. As of Monday night, about 2,600 US flights scheduled for Tuesday were already cancelled, including 60 per cent of all Southwest flights.
“The only thing we want is to get home,” said Francis Uba, who was among the frustrated passengers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Monday, where over 130 flights were cancelled as of that evening.
He and his family returned from an eight-day cruise in the Bahamas on Monday to learn that their Southwest flight back home to Columbus, Ohio, had been cancelled. Uba, 60, said the airline had rebooked them onto a Wednesday flight with no explanation.
Uba, who owns a health business, said he had spent five hours trying to find another flight but had not even been able to reach an airline customer service agent.
On Monday, more than 3,800 flights in the US — including international flights into or out of the country — had been cancelled as of Monday night and more than 7,400 others had been delayed, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. Southwest was by far the most disrupted airline, with more than 2,800 cancelled flights.
Chris Perry, a spokesman for Southwest, said the airline was “experiencing disruptions across our network” as a result of the winter storms.
Among the hardest-hit airports were the Denver, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix and Baltimore airports, all of which had more than 100 cancelled departing flights as of Monday night, as did Chicago Midway International Airport. Denver alone had more than 220 cancelled flights.
For some the impact was more than just a cancelled flight. Elicia Michaud of Austin, 45, said four sets of grandchildren coming from different destinations planned to surprise their grandparents, in their 80s, in Los Angeles. It was to be their first reunion since the pandemic began. A photographer was lined up for the occasion. Now, Michaud said, it’s going to be cancelled. “It’s going to be a massive bummer,” she said.
For others, the repeated troubles forced them to cancel trips altogether.
New York Times News Service