BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Thousands of flights coast to coast were cancelled this holiday weekend, one of the busiest travel times of the year, with Southwest Airlines responsible for most of them.
The cancellations have now sparked an investigation by the Department of Transportation and left fliers frustrated and even furious, including ones at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport.
A spokesperson for the airport said Southwest cancelled 10 departing flights from Birmingham Tuesday, as well as a similar number of arriving flights, warning there could be more later this week.
“It’s ridiculous that you would leave so many people stranded during the holiday season … Some people literally wait all year for these moments to see their families, and now they’re being robbed of that,” said Southwest passenger Willie Allen at the airport.
Allen is from D.C. and has been stuck in Birmingham since Christmas Eve.
“I wasn’t able to go where I was supposed to go for Christmas, and now, it’s looking like I’m not gonna be where I’m supposed to be for New Year’s either,” Allen said.
On Tuesday, Southwest cancelled more than 2,600 flights nationwide according to Flight Aware, blaming the winter storm and subsequent operational failures.
The airline released this statement in response, saying in part quote:
“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. We’re working with Safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning Crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us.”
For many customers, they felt that statement didn’t cut it.
“It’s really frustrating because their phonelines are down, the website is down, so we had to drive from Clanton [Alabama] over here in order to even speak to someone,” Southwest passenger Megan Lawrence said.
Lawrence, a healthcare worker from San Antonio, TX, was supposed to fly back home Thursday for work, but her flight has already been cancelled.
“They gave us a voucher and pretty much told us there’s nothing they can do until the first [of January] … We’ve flown Southwest for years, and this has never happened,” Lawrence said.
She ended up booking a new airline, like Patrick Guarino from Hoover who said he spent 29 hours stranded at the Dallas Love Field Airport last week trying to get to San Diego, CA, and then had his return flight cancelled.
“I was supposed to work today. I’m just now getting home, so I missed a day, so I got to take a day’s vacation because [Southwest] burned it … ‘I’m sorry’ is not enough. They need to compensate us some other way,” Guarino said.