Southwest cancels more than a thousand flights, cites air-traffic control issues

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights this weekend amid air traffic control issues and weather, and the airline has not given an update as to whether the cancellations may continue.

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"ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation," Southwest said in a statement on Twitter Saturday. "We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected customers, and customer service wait times are longer than usual."

According to FlightAware, a website that tracks cancellations and delays, Southwest has canceled 1,018 flights and had 597 flights delayed on Sunday alone. On Saturday, the airline canceled 808 flights and had 1,187 flights delayed. 

Southwest gave FOX Business a longer statement on Sunday afternoon. 

"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," the spokesperson told FOX Business.

"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 spokesperson added. "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, 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 their patience as we work first to be safe, and second to be as quick as possible in solving disrupted plans," the spokesperson concluded.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson explained that the air-traffic control issues ended on Friday.

"No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday," an FAA spokesperson told FOX Business in a statement on Sunday. "Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread severe weather, military training and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center."

"Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules," the spokesperson added.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the airline's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, issued a statement clarifying that it had no connection to the cancellations and delays.

"SWAPA is aware of operational difficulties affecting Southwest Airlines today due to a number of issues, but we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions," the organization said in a statement Saturday. "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."

FOX Business also reached out to the two airports most impacted on Sunday — Denver International Airport and Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. DIA did not respond, while BWI referred FOX Business to Southwest.

Many customers expressed frustration, with some saying that Southwest ruined their weekends. 

"Thanks Southwest for ruining my weekend to see my granddaughter for the first time," Michael Meister, visual strategist at The Arizona Republic, tweeted at Southwest. 

"We're missing our daughters [sic] college game because you struggle to be the reliable airlines you use [sic] to be," Brian Staab tweeted. "Over 2 hour wait times with customer service; no online solutions/options. Southwest to Southlate to simply don't bother." He added that he had "no choice but to cancel and miss the event."

Kate Peifer told a particularly harrowing story. She said that she "received a notification in the middle of the night that the second half of our flight (which leaves in 120 minutes) is canceled. It’s 120 minute wait to get ahold of someone and we can’t change flights online. Not a great way to end our first trip to see family."

She also posted a video showing "one of only two lines in LaGuardia airport that are longer than 45 minutes to see customer service. No boarding passes are printing for anyone in the airport," she reported.

FOX Business' Grady Trimble contributed to this report.

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