TAMPA (WFLA) – Southwest Airlines canceled more than one thousand flights across the country starting last Friday. Hundreds more flights were delayed, impacting the travels plans of thousands of passengers, including many at Tampa International Airport.
“I have a son who’s very, very ill up in Raleigh and we are all trying to get there, so my daughter has rebooked a flight on Delta for me tomorrow,” said Denise Curren.
Karson Brooks and his co-workers were also stranded by the Southwest problems.
“They just said flights are canceled,” said Brooks.
The problem is, Brooks and his co-workers are the stage crew for Harry Styles and they were scheduled to start setting up his Tuesday night concert in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We were supposed to be at work in Raleigh at 8:00 in the morning and now we’re stuck here,” said Brooks.
Southwest Airlines initially blamed the weather and a shortage of Air Traffic Controllers.
In a tweet, Southwest said, “ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend.”
Airline industry expert Henry Harteveldt, the founder of Atmosphere Research Group says other airlines did not have similar problems.
“The reality is, there were no bad weather problems and there were no ATC staffing problems and the FAA even tweeted back at Southwest saying, nope not our problem,” said Harteveldt who says Southwest is having a number of staffing issues of it’s own right now.
“The pilots are worn out and there are no reserves, frankly no excess reserves of pilots left. It doesn’t help that the Southwest Pilots union has been very vocal in it’s opposition to Southwest’s decision to comply with the federal government’s mandate for all of the airlines to be vaccinated. The airline maintains there was no work action, the pilots union maintains there was no work action. Both of those are the right public statements to make, but there are persistent rumors that something is going on somewhere,” said Harteveldt.
Southwest Airlines issued a statement on Monday saying:
“Southwest Airlines extends a tremendous apology to our Customers and Employees for the flight cancellations and delays which occurred over the weekend and on Monday. On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday. Southwest teams have been working diligently to restore stability to the network, and we are experiencing less disruptions on Monday. We hope to restore our full schedule as soon as possible. As a note, the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations. To every Customer that experienced a cancellation or delay, Southwest offers our sincerest regret regarding disrupted travel plans, and we look forward to a future opportunity to demonstrate our safe, reliable, friendly, and legendary Southwest Hospitality – something that Customers should always expect from Southwest Airlines.”