Southwest Airlines struggles continue at SoCal airports as cancellations mount nationwide

The airline said it plans to return to normal operations on Friday.

Josh Haskell Image
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Southwest struggles continue at SoCal airports as cancellations mount
Southwest Airlines is still trying to extract itself from sustained scheduling chaos and canceled another 2,356 flights after a winter storm overwhelmed its operations days ago.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Southwest Airlines canceled thousands more flights nationwide Thursday, hundreds of them out of Southern California airports, resulting in piles of luggage with nowhere to go.

Southwest canceled another 2,356 flights Thursday, more than half of the airline's nationwide scheduled flights for the day. Locally, 99 flights at LAX were canceled, 78 at Hollywood Burbank Airport, 92 at John Wayne Airport and 59 at Long Beach Airport, according to FlightAware.

The airline issued an apology to stranded holiday travelers, stating that its operational challenges stem from last week's historic winter storm.

"My personal apology is the first step of making things right after many plans changed and experiences fell short of your expectations of us," said Chief Commercial Officer Ryan Green. "You know by now all the flexibility and planning that we put in place to deal with the storm just wasn't enough.

Although initially fueled by a brutal winter storm, unions for Southwest pilots and flight attendants say the cancellations now have nothing to do with the weather. They say the airline's outdated computer system is to blame.

The unions claim Southwest did not heed calls to upgrade the technology before the meltdown. The airline is now under growing scrutiny from lawmakers and federal regulators.

"We explained that as hot as we were running the operation, the systems were continuing to be an issue. We've raised it at negotiations," said Lyn Montgomery, president of Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Union.

"We have brought forth solutions and technology provisions at the table and it's pretty much been ignored," she added. "I know the pilot's union has taken a strong focus on the fact that we seem to only plan for sunny days, and then when we have inclement weather, our systems and our methodologies just don't work."

Meanwhile, the federal government is investigating what happened at Southwest with total cancellations soaring past 10,000 early in the week.

Southwest added a page to their website specifically for travelers who were stranded, but thousands of customers remain unable to reach the airline.

"We've extended flexibility for self-service travel changes through January 2nd. Meaning that if you have travel plans with us before then, you shouldn't need to get on a call or stand in a line, and you can make any flight changes you need to at," Green said.

The airline said it plans to return to normal operations on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.