Southwest Airlines Cancels At Least 1,800 Flights Over Weekend, Blames Weather, Air Traffic Control

No other airlines recorded a similar number of cancellations
Passengers deplane from a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, California, October 10, 2021. - Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend, blaming the cancellations on poor weather and air traffic control issues.
Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Southwest Airlines canceled nearly two thousand flights over the weekend, grounding thousands of travelers and would-be passengers over what it referred to as air traffic control and weather problems affecting its service. 

According to FlightAware, a flight-tracking service, Southwest Airlines canceled just over 800 flights on Saturday and delayed more than one-third of its service. On Sunday, the airliner canceled 1,055 flights — or 28% of the day’s Southwest flights. 

“[Air traffic control] issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement on Twitter. 

Some have speculated that many flights were canceled due to a strike among Southwest pilots. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which on Friday asked the courts to temporarily stop a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members, alleging a violation of labor law, has denied the theory is behind the cancellations. 

“[The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association] 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,” said the Southwest Airlines pilot’s union. “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. They will continue to be focused on their highest priority — safety. SWAPA Pilots are true professionals and will always maintain the highest level of responsibility to their crews, their passengers, and our airline.”

In a statement Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration said that no shortage of air traffic control employees had been reported since Friday, and suggested “some airlines” were currently having problems because crews and aircraft were not where they needed to be.

None of the three other major airlines in the United States came close to the number of Southwest canceled flights, although American Airlines also canceled a sizable number of its flights — 149 or the equivalent of 5% of Sunday’s service as of Sunday evening. United Airlines canceled 9 flights on Sunday, and Delta Airlines canceled only three flights as of the same time. 

Delta Airlines is the only one of the four major airline carriers that have not enacted a vaccine mandate among pilots, despite the federal push for large employers to do so. 

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