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Southwest flight cancellations affect travelers in San Diego

On Saturday, the airline canceled a total of 808 flights across the United States; as of Sunday afternoon, they had canceled over 1,000 more.

SAN DIEGO — Southwest Airlines customers at San Diego International Airport and across the country experienced a large number of cancellations this weekend. 

The airline said in a Facebook post that due to air traffic control issues and disruptive weather that a large number of flights would be canceled across the U.S.

Customers who were affected by cancelations were asked to rebook their flights by visiting Southwest's website.

The Whitsett family of San Diego booked a Southwest flight from San Diego to Kentucky with a layover in Chicago for this weekend. The trip was planned around attending a soccer game on Sunday.

“[It was a ] perfect flight all the way to Chicago," said Carson Whitsett.

However, it was a different story when the family arrived in Chicago and boarded their second flight.

"One of the Southwest employees came on and announced the flight was canceled," said Whitsett in a Zoom interview. "You know how Southwest kind of jokes around sometimes? So we were like 'ha ha' but no. They were serious.”

The family decided to book a rental car, but when those were unavailable as well, they got creative and booked an eight-hour Greyhound bus ride to Kentucky.

“Lots of Greyhound memories," said Whitsett.

According to Flightaware, the Southwest Airline issues are primarily impacting the Denver and Dallas airports. However, it disrupted Tori Steib's vacation. Steib had a tripped booked from Atlanta to San Diego for Sunday.

"It’s my fall break from school," said Steib. "I’m a high school teacher so I was looking forward to getting away [and] having a relaxing trip. I received a text message from Southwest saying my flight had been canceled.”

Steib said she was on hold with Southwest's customer service phone line for eight hours on Sunday to ask about requesting a refund. 

The airline issued an updated statement Sunday that read,

"We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening. We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our Customers.

With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.

We’re working diligently to accommodate our Customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience. We’re offering Customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel. We know the frustration flight cancellations are creating for our Customers and Employees and we apologize, and we again thank everyone for patience as we work first to be safe, and second to be as quick as possible in solving disrupted plans."

USA TODAY reported Sunday that the FAA responded earlier in the day to the claims saying the weather and air traffic control issues were limited to Friday afternoon. The FAA did not name Southwest specifically in its response.

“Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place,” the FAA statement read, according to USA TODAY. “Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules.”

SDIA reported at least 47 Southwest flights were canceled there over the weekend, including 27 flights on Sunday, according to Flight Aware.

"Why isn’t it other airlines?” said Steib when she responded to the statement.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the...

Posted by Southwest Airlines on Saturday, October 9, 2021

On Saturday, the airline canceled a total of 808 flights across the United States; as of Sunday afternoon, they had canceled over 1,000 more.

The canceled flights accounted for 28% of Southwest's schedule which was the highest rate by far of the major U.S. airlines. Next in line were Allegiant and Spirit, which had respectively canceled 5% and 4% of their flights on Sunday, according to the flight tracker. American Airlines canceled 2% of its flights.

The union representing Southwest pilots said in a Saturday statement that its members were not participating in "any official or unofficial job actions" and placed at least part of the blame on the airline. 

"Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world," the statement read. "They will continue to be focused on their highest priority — safety. SWAPA Pilots are true professionals and will always maintain the highest level of responsibility to their crews, their passengers, and our airline." 

The nationwide cancellations came after the airline announced this week that the company will now require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccinated by Dec. 8. It was unclear whether this impacted the high volume of cancellations across the country.

WATCH RELATED: Multiple Southwest Airlines flights delayed Monday cause issues for San Diego travelers - June 14, 2021


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