Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is facing a difficult weekend, with widespread cancellations and delays across its network. The world’s largest low-cost carrier has had to deal with a combination of weather-based disruption and issues with air traffic control.
A combination of factors
Southwest Airlines and its passengers had a difficult day yesterday, as the budget carrier experienced widespread and multi-faceted disruption. As seen in the tweet below, weather disruption and problems with air traffic control contributed to the issues.
ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/o1scQJ5lLb
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 9, 2021
According to the Phoenix-based daily newspaper The Arizona Republic, the bad weather in question originated on the US East Coast. This reportedly resulted in the implementation of a traffic management scheme which subsequently resulted in delays and cancelations. The Arizona Republic adds that Southwest Airlines explained in a statement that:
“We experienced significant impact in the Florida airports yesterday evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather and resulted in a large number of cancellations.”
Over a third of flights canceled
Many of us will have experienced the odd flight delay or cancelation before. However, the disruption experienced by Southwest yesterday was far more widespread than a single isolated event. Indeed, Paddle Your Own Kanoo explains that Saturday saw at least 34% of Southwest flights be the subject of delays or even cancelations.
The publication adds that some of the weather issues arose earlier in the week, and certain crews and aircraft remain displaced. As far as the problems with ATC are concerned, a factor in these is a shortage of staff in certain locations. Southwest will likely continue to feel knock-on effects today, although it hopes for a better Sunday. It stated yesterday that:
“We are working hard behind the scenes to minimize challenges and fully recover the operation as we take care of displaced Crews and Customers as quickly as possible. We will continue to reset our network today and hope to return to close to normal operations as we move into Sunday.”
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Busy phone lines
Southwest isn’t the only US low-cost carrier to have faced periods of widespread disruption this year. Indeed, August saw Spirit Airlines come up against widespread disruption, stranding hundreds of passengers in Florida. Key factors in that instance were bad weather, IT issues, and staff shortages. The DOT even ended up weighing in on the matter.
The disruption has led to a sharp increase in the number of passengers contacting Southwest to manage their bookings. According to Southwest’s website, this has resulted in “extremely high call volumes and long hold times.” As such, the carrier recommends that passengers use “self-service features in the app to book, change, or cancel” their trips.
What do you make of this operational disruption? Have you been affected by the cancelations and delays? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.