It’s been almost five days since a historic winter storm stopped air travel across the country, but not much has changed at Chicago’s Midway Airport’s Southwest Terminal. A flight that may have been canceled.
One Southwestern traveler in Midway told NBC 5:
Midway passengers may receive direct customer service assistance from O’Hare staff dispatched to the airport this week, but the problem is expected to persist for “several days.”
Chicago travelers remain stranded as Southwest to ‘operate shortened schedule’ for ‘several days’
In a statement issued by Southwest Airlines on Monday, the airline said the severe weather “will continue to impact daily flight schedules in the amount and magnitude that teams still have the tools to use to restore airline capacity. The airline has decided to “continue to operate on a reduced schedule by flying approximately one-third of the schedule over the next few days.”
An update to a video posted by CEO Bob Jordan on Southwest Airlines’ website on Tuesday echoed this sentiment, stating, “The city where many scheduled flights were frozen at the same time due to record-breaking cold weather. , posed a challenge for all airlines.”
“Our network is very complex, and our airline operations depend on every element, especially the aircraft and crew moving to their destinations,” Jordan said. “The tools we use to recover from chaos work 99% of the time. It is clear that there is a need to further strengthen the plans for
Jordan concluded his message by saying the airline is “optimistic to be back on track by next week.”
But according to travel expert Kurt Ebenhoch, it wasn’t the storm that caused the chaos.
“If this was purely a weather issue, all airlines would have the same problem,” Ebenhoch said in an NBC 5 interview.
Southwest canceled 70% on Monday and more than 60% on Tuesday. Meanwhile, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways had cancellation rates between 0% and 2% by Tuesday.
Overall, 2,522 of the 2,890 flight cancellations in the US early Tuesday morning were canceled by Southwest Airlines.
What Southwest Employees Are Saying
Southwestern passengers aren’t the only ones stuck.
TWU Local 556, a Southwest Airlines flight attendants union of more than 18,000 members, said in a release that “thousands” of flight attendants were also stranded across the country, “those forced to sleep in cots at airports. Some sleep in hotels with no power or water, too many people work long hours well beyond their acceptable working days.”
“We know the demand for vacation travel,” the union statement continued. , I know to step up and do long working hours.We are flight attendants.But at this point, the modernization demands of many unions have left flight attendants exhausted, stranded and hungry It’s getting cold.”
Captain Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association, said bad weather was the catalyst but what led to the meltdown was a “very outdated” IT infrastructure and scheduling system unlike any other airline. .
Santoro added on Tuesday that unions bring up the issue every year, saying: “We operate a point-to-point network where it’s possible for planes to misplace crews without being mismatched. Yes, our software cannot track it.
“They never update it, they never invest the necessary money and resources, so we continue to have these problems,” said Santoro.
On Tuesday, SWAPA President Captain Casey Murray called the situation “disgraceful”, “devastating” and “a failure on every level”.
What federal agencies are doing
The travel disruption has come to the attention of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which said the rate of canceled flights was “disproportionate and unacceptable.”
“USDOT is concerned about Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and its inability to adequately support customers experiencing cancellations or delays,” a spokesperson said on Monday. Stated. “As more information becomes available, the department will closely investigate whether the cancellation was controllable, Southwest’s compliance with the Customer Service Plan, and all other relevant DOT regulations. .”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation have pledged to hold Southwest Airlines accountable if it fails to keep its promises to consumers.
“Southwest Airlines’ cancellation and delay rates are unacceptable and dramatically higher than other U.S. airlines,” USDOT said on Tuesday. This includes providing meal vouchers, refunds and hotel accommodations to passengers who experience significant delays or cancellations as a result of Southwest Airlines’ decisions and actions. Southwest Airlines, like all airlines, is obligated to provide cash refunds to passengers whose flights are canceled and who decide not to travel. ”
Additionally, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has been in touch with federal officials regarding the cancellation of thousands of Southwest Airlines flights in recent days, a cascading series of problems that have left travelers stranded in the country. It has said it is asking airlines to be held accountable for .
“I’m keeping a close eye on the ongoing issues facing consumers regarding the canceled Southwest Airlines flights,” Pritzker said. It voiced the frustration of thousands of Illinoisans who had to stop working because they missed time or couldn’t get home.”
Things to keep in mind if flying southwest this week
For those with hope, it doesn’t look like things will get better anytime soon.
Southwest Airlines expects “further changes to be made as the holiday season approaches, as flight levels have already declined.”
“As we continue work to restore operations, we have decided to continue operations on a reduced schedule by flying approximately one-third of our schedule over the next few days,” the statement read. rice field.
They continue to “work to reach customers whose travel plans change.”
“On the contrary, we strive to make things right for those we let down, including our employees,” the statement concludes. We apologize.”
Southwest Airlines CEO says “optimistic to be back on track by next week,” but some passengers told NBC 5 they will cancel or rebook if Southwest Airlines departs before the start of the year Flight experts agree.
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“If you take Southwest Airlines over the next few days, possibly over the next week, you will definitely see flight cancellations,” Kyle Potter told Thrifty Traveler.
“The problem here is that the ball is in the Southwest court,” Potter continued. “The reality is that U.S. travelers have surprisingly few rights.”
According to Southwest’s website, “Customers who booked with Southwest between Sunday, December 25th and Monday, January 2nd will be able to rebook in their original class of service or Travel Standby. (within 14 days from date of original travel between original cities) at no additional charge.”