Fight or flight
Southwest cancels hundreds of flights at Austin airport, grounding holiday travelers
The aftermath from a massive winter storm caused nationwide chaos for travelers trying to catch a flight on the day after Christmas, especially those booked on Southwest Airlines.
As of 9 pm Central on Monday, December 26, more than 3,900 flights within, into, or out of the United States have been canceled, according to the tracking site FlightAware.
Southwest Airlines accounted for the vast majority of those canceled flights and eventually apologized to passengers and employees for the "unacceptable" situation. In many cases, stranded passengers were told it would be at least three or four days before they could be rebooked on another Southwest flight.
FlightAware said Southwest had 2,902 cancellations Monday — about 71 percent of its scheduled flights for the day and 10 times as many as any other major U.S. carrier. More than 100 Southwest flights from Austin were canceled both Monday and Tuesday, according to Flight Aware.
For comparison, Delta Airlines had the second-most cancellations Monday for a U.S. carrier with around 268, about 9 percent of its scheduled flights.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday evening it was "concerned" by the high number of cancellations and reports of lacking customer service. The federal agency said it would be examining whether the "cancellations were controllable."
As of late Monday night, Southwest had already canceled 61 percent of its Tuesday flights and 30 percent of Wednesday's flights, according to FlightAware.
Dallas-based Southwest said in an update Monday afternoon that with "consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable. And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning."
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