Southwest Airlines cancels 1,000 more flights as disruptions increase
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 is pictured in front of United Airlines planes, including Boeing 737 MAX 9 models, at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, March 18, 2019.
Loren Elliott | Reuters
Southwest Airlines on Sunday canceled more than 1,000 flights, 27% of its schedule, as disruptions the airline blamed on air traffic control issues and bad weather affected the travel plans of thousands of customers.
“We had a significant impact at Florida airports [Friday] evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather conditions and resulted in a large number of cancellations, ”Alan Kasher, who oversees daily flight operations, said on Saturday. staff in a note.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees air traffic, did not immediately comment. Southwest apologized to travelers for the long waits in customer service.
Southwest said in a statement on Saturday that it hoped “to return to near-normal operations as Sunday approaches.”
“We are working hard behind the scenes to minimize the challenges and fully recover the operation as we take care of the displaced crews and customers as quickly as possible,” the company said.
The Dallas-based airline canceled 808 flights on Saturday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. American Airlines, which operates a large hub in Miami, by comparison, canceled 63 mainline flights, or 2% of its operations and Spirit Airlines, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Canceled 32 flights, or 4% of its operations. its program.
Staff shortages fueled hundreds of cancellations at Southwest over the summer. The airline has cut its schedule after the summer to avoid further disruption. Other airlines have faced worker shortages after encouraging thousands to take time off or buy-backs at the height of the pandemic, only to have travel demand return faster than expected this summer.
Southwest did not immediately comment on whether staff shortages contributed to this weekend’s cancellations.
The airline has struggled to hire new employees. Incoming CEO Bob Jordan told CNBC last month the carrier was prepared to cut flights during the spring break season if it didn’t have enough staff to support the operation.
The disparity between Southwest’s operations and other airlines fueled speculation on social media that employees were calling sick.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, the union of Southwest pilots, said that “we can say with certainty that our pilots are not involved in any official or unofficial action.”
“Our pilots will continue to overcome the poor planning of the SWA leadership, as well as any external operational challenges, and will remain the most productive pilots in the world,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday, the union noted that the company’s recent announcement that it would comply with the Biden administration’s requirement that federal contractors must force staff to vaccinate against Covid contributes to the distractions of airmen.
“Make no mistake – due to months of staffing issues and ineffective planning practices, we are operating with higher than normal operational risk,” the union’s safety committee told members in an article on Saturday.
He said fatigue reports, which force pilots not to fly, are historic triple standards.
“All of these challenges led to additional distraction in the cockpit,” he said. “The company’s announcement of this week’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate only exacerbates the situation. “