Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights Monday following a weekend that saw nearly 2,000 cancellations.
Nearly 360 Southwest flights had been canceled and another 571 were delayed as of 10 a.m. EDT Monday, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. On Saturday, the airline canceled 808 of its flights, while nearly 1,125 flights – amounting to about 30% of Southwest’s schedule -- were canceled Sunday, according to FlightAware.
Airline officials said the issues began Friday, when an air traffic management program implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration caused a “significant impact” on Southwest’s operations, according to USA Today. On Saturday, Southwest blamed air traffic control issues and inclement weather for the ongoing cancellations and said the company was working to recover.
Officials with the FAA said Sunday that the agency had not received any reports of air traffic staffing issues since Friday.
“Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place,” officials added.
Speculation rose over the weekend that the issues might have been caused by pilots calling out sick in response to Southwest Airlines’ vaccine mandate, which was announced last week and is set to take effect Dec. 8.
However, Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, on Sunday blamed the issues on poor management.
“I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise,” Murray said in a statement. “SWA has claimed that the immediate causes of this weekend’s meltdown were staffing at Jacksonville Center and weather in the southeast U.S., but what was a minor temporary event for other carriers devastated Southwest Airlines because our operation has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.”
As Southwest canceled hundreds of flights Sunday, American Airlines canceled 167 flights while Spirit Airlines canceled just 34 of its flights, according to Flight Aware.
Southwest officials told CNN late Sunday that the company was seeing issues exacerbated by scheduling and staffing cuts made during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” the airline told CNN.
In August, Southwest announced it was cutting its schedule by about 27 daily flights between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6, and 162 daily flights from Oct. 7 to Nov. 5 to address operational issues blamed for flight delays over the summer, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company added that it planned to reduce its schedule further in November and December.
“With fewer (flights) in our schedule between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged,” the company said, according to CNN.
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