Thousands of Southwest Airlines passengers remained stranded Tuesday across Southern California as the airline’s winter woes worsened, leading to canceled and delayed flights throughout the nation.
As of midday Tuesday, the airline had canceled nearly 2,600 flights nationally, including many from Los Angeles International Airport and other airfields across Southern California, according the tracking website FlightAware. At LAX, a total of 61 departing flights from all airlines had been canceled as of Tuesday morning, with 94 others delayed.
Stranded passengers were left with few alternatives, with the Southwest Airlines’ website listing all flights departing from Southern California as “unavailable” through Saturday.
Some flights were still departing from LAX, John Wayne Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport and Long Beach Airport, but passengers were being urged to check flight schedules.
As of midday Tuesday, 52 departing flights had been canceled at John Wayne Airport — including airlines other than Southwest — as were 42 flights from Burbank and 32 from Long Beach.
The airline issued an apology to stranded holiday travelers, stating that its operational challenges stem from last week’s historic winter storm.
“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,” according to a Southwest statement. “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.”
The airline added, “And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told City News Service that officials were concerned Monday evening that some passengers would have to remain overnight in the terminal, although John Wayne Airport spokeswoman AnnaSophia Servin said no one had to camp out at the airport overnight.
“All of us on the board are very concerned at the high number of flights canceled,” Foley said. “And all of the complaints we’re getting. We think Southwest needs to step it up a notch as it relates to travel in California or western state travel.”
Foley said she understands how the winter storms can lead to cancellations, but she said the airline should have better contingency plans, especially when it comes to flights here.
“This is California. We’re not experiencing dire weather conditions here,” she said.
On Monday, Southwest canceled more than 2,900 flights across the country, or about 70% of its scheduled total, according to FlightAware. By 6 a.m. Tuesday, Southwest canceled more than 2,500 more flights, which accounted for at least 60% of its schedule.
The airline’s CEO, Bob Jordan, told the Wall Street Journal that Southwest was planning to fly about one-third of its schedule Tuesday as it worked to catch up from the massive delays. Although the airline has continued to blame winter weather for the problems, some industry watchers have suggested that aging scheduling software played a major role in the delays.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a statement calling the Southwest situation “unacceptable.”
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the department stated. “The department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
Southwest Airlines said it was fully staffed late last week and prepared for the approaching Christmas weekend when severe weather swept across the continent.
“On the other side of this, we’ll work to make things right for those we’ve let down, including our employees,” the airline stated.
Impacted travelers can find more information a southwest.com/traveldisruption.