Southwest cancels more than 700 flights due to weather
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By Eva Rotenberg and Pete Muntean, CNN
New York (CNN) – Flight cancellations across the country continue to cause headaches for thousands of travelers, and Southwest tops the list of most affected airlines for the second day in a row. But the source and scope of these disruptions differs from the airline’s collapse a year ago.
As of Monday afternoon, the airline had canceled more than 700 flights, about 18% of its schedule, setting off alarm bells that the nightmare weekend for travel could be the start of another operational failure for the company.
But, according to the airline, this isn’t a technological issue like the 10-day service collapse that left more than 2 million passengers stranded during the 2022 holiday season and cost the company more than $1 billion.
The problem is the weather. A large swath of the country was hit by severe winter conditions this weekend, with more than 140 million people currently under wind chill warnings extending from… Rocky Mountains to Central Texas. More than 140 daily cold records could be broken Monday and Tuesday from Oregon to Mississippi, And Temperatures in Memphis, Dallas and Nashville are expected to remain below freezing for at least 72 consecutive hours.
Southwest said It was late It is planned in advance and communicated to customers in advance. The scheduling changes were made to “anticipate expected operating conditions across a broad swath of our route map – everything from winter precipitation including blizzard conditions, to airport and airspace restrictions, and dangerous cold wind environments requiring rotating ground crews to limit exposure.” A CNN spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson added that cancellations and delays should decrease significantly on Tuesday “as the storm moves east and cold temperatures moderate.” The airline pointed to a list of operational steps it says it has taken in 2023 to ensure the level of disruption experienced in 2022 is not repeated, including updates to crew scheduling systems and more de-icing equipment at airports.
Unlike the collapse of Southwest Airlines flights in 2022, the company says the recent spate of cancellations is mostly due to where Southwest Airlines flies back and forth, not technical issues, and that unlike the recent incident, it should recover quickly.
Southwest is a major carrier at some airports now engulfed by an Arctic blast that has paralyzed much of the country. In particular, it maintains a significant presence in Chicago and Denver, both of which are subject to wind chill warnings from the National Weather Service, and Dallas, which The NWS says it could face dangerous winter conditions this week.
Southwest is not the only airline that has found icy conditions difficult. American Airlines requested a ground stop at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport earlier Monday morning. “The ground station was previously a temporary effort to thin lines at de-icing pads and make room at gates for incoming aircraft during our busiest arrival bank at DFW,” the airline told CNN.
Severe winter weather caused major delays over the long weekend. Saturday and Sunday saw more than 16,500 flight delays and nearly 3,000 flight cancellations across the United States, according to FlightAware. On Monday, the number of cancellations rose to more than 2,300 More than 5,500 flights were postponed, making Monday the day with the highest number of cancellations in the past 12 months, according to FlightAware data.
These weather-related delays compound an already difficult week for airlines and their passengers. Last week, more than 200 United and Alaska Airlines flights were canceled each day due to the federally mandated grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes. The Federal Aviation Administration issued the order after a piece of the fuselage exploded on an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5 with 177 people on board. The accident left a large hole in the side of the plane and the headrests were torn from the seats while the plane was flying at an altitude of 16,000 feet, shortly after taking off from Portland, Oregon.
United and Alaska Airlines, the two largest U.S. airlines flying the Max 9 planes, are among the airlines that have canceled the most flights, according to the Anuvu Pulse industry dashboard. United has canceled nearly 13% of its flights, making it the second hardest-hit airline after Southwest, which is not flying any Max 9 planes. Alaska Airlines saw the third-highest rate of cancellations on Sunday, having canceled about 15% of its total flights.
The two airlines said last week that they had canceled all flights on their Max 9 planes until mid-January.
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CNN’s Ross Levitt, Nouran Salahia, Allison Chinchar and Mary Gilbert contributed to this report.