Southwest Airlines passengers are in for another day of inconvenience. The airline halted hundreds of more flights on Monday, following thousands of cancellations and delays over the weekend, purportedly due to air traffic control difficulties and bad weather.
As of Monday morning, the airline has canceled more than 355 flights and delayed another 581, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. These canceled flights account for 10% of the airline’s schedule, down from 30% on Sunday.
Southwest announced over the weekend that the high amount of cancellations was resulting in longer-than-usual wait times for customer support, and advised affected customers to investigate self-service rebooking options online.
There are conflicting messages on the fundamental cause.
The cause of the interruption varies according to who you ask.
Southwest Airlines blamed the cancellation on air traffic control problems and inclement weather in a statement released Sunday.
The Federal Aviation Administration, on the other hand, stated that no FAA air traffic personnel shortages had been observed since Friday.
“Flight delays and cancellations happened for a few hours Friday afternoon as a result of widespread bad weather, military exercises, and insufficient staffing in one section of the Jacksonville en route center,” the airline tweeted. “Some airlines continue to have scheduling difficulties as a result of aircraft and staff being out of position.”
Over the weekend, Henry Harteveldt, president and travel industry expert at The Atmosphere Research Group, offered two more scenarios to the Associated Press. One reason is that Southwest booked more flights than it can manage and uses a “point-to-point route network,” which magnifies the effect of each delay.
He further indicated that some pilots are calling in sick or refusing to work in protest of Southwest’s recent COVID-19 vaccination demand. Southwest management and staff have disputed this, despite the fact that prominent conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz have accepted the notion (R-TX).
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association stated Sunday that “there have been no work slowdowns or sickouts as a result of the current required vaccination mandate or for any other reason.”
It challenged the carrier’s account of the weekend’s interruptions.
“While Southwest Airlines has claimed that the immediate causes of this weekend’s meltdown were staffing at Jacksonville Center and weather in the southeast United States, what was a minor temporary event for other carriers devastated Southwest Airlines because our operation has become brittle and susceptible to massive failures under the slightest pressure,” the union stated. “Our operation and frontline personnel have been subjected to constant and interminable interruptions since our airline made news for the first time in early June as a result of massive IT breakdowns.”
The union stated that its pilots are angry because “our operation is operating on fumes as a result of the Company’s lack of support,” and that SWAPA leadership will meet with Southwest’s vice president of flight operations on Monday afternoon to discuss their concerns.
Southwest Airlines has not replied to requests for comment from NPR.
Southwest has had a difficult travel season.
Numerous airlines, including Southwest, have suffered during the epidemic.
In June, it was impacted by two system outages that resulted in significant delays over a two-day period. And, following an early surge in leisure travel demand earlier this summer, the airline warned that the delta version is challenging its return plans: In August, it warned that reservations were declining and cancellations were increasing.
Southwest stated in early October that all employees must be completely vaccinated against COVID-19 — or have a religious or medical exemption — by Dec. 8 or risk losing their employment.
“Southwest Airlines, like our industry colleagues, must adhere to the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine order,” stated Gary Kelly, Chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines. “I encourage all Southwest employees to comply with the government mandate immediately, as we appreciate each worker and want to secure their job security.”
Several employees have already objected to the demand. SWAPA filed a federal court petition on Friday seeking to prevent the firm from executing the instruction, claiming it violates the Railway Labor Act (which governs labor relations in the railroad and airline industries).
Southwest disputes the assertion that any COVID modifications require agreement, according to Bloomberg.
Additionally, the airline has been grappling with the manpower shortages afflicting a number of businesses.
While on the road, Southwest pilots and flight attendants have struggled to locate hotel rooms, transportation, and meals.
According to the Dallas Morning News, beginning Tuesday, the airline will provide a six-month membership to the delivery service Doordash to all active crew members in the expectation that they may have restaurant meals delivered directly to their rooms.