KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — Thousands of people across the country are still facing travel troubles following a weekend of thousands of cancelled Southwest Airlines flights.
The airline cancelled more than 360 flights — 10% of its schedule for the day — on Monday and more than 1,000 others were delayed, according to the FlightAware tracking service.
“While we do not have specific airport numbers to share, 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,” Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said Monday.
The airline said the problem started Friday evening.
“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 cancellations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday,” Landson said.
Southwest denied that the recent challenges were a result of “Southwest employee demonstrations” over the company’s vaccine mandate.
Experts at AAA couldn’t say for certain whether Southwest’s recent problems would be something travelers can expect more frequently going into the holiday travel season.
“It’s kind of hard to say if this is going to be the start of something larger impacting holiday travel or if this is an isolated incident,” AAA spokesperson Nick Chabarria said.
The impact could be felt at KCI Monday morning, though only a few flights were cancelled from KCI Monday.
“I don’t think it would’ve been a problem at all if they would’ve just bumped all of the Bills fans. It would be really pretty easy,” Allen Graves said.
Graves is trying to get back home to Albuquerque, NM and experienced a delay or just a few hours.
Other passengers, like Bills fan Walter Jackson, had their flights cancelled completely. Jackson’s original flight was non-stop back home to Los Angeles. He and his buddies wouldn’t be able to fly direct to LAX for a few days, so they made other plans.
“At first we were going to go to Phoenix and then drive into LA but then I was no let’s do Vegas! And it just so happened they had availability to Vegas,” Jackson said.
Travelers like Mike Smith weren’t so upbeat about last minute changes to travel plans. Smith’s flight to Florida for a Key West vacation was cancelled Sunday.
“I was kind of bummed out yesterday,” Smith said. “They’re claiming weather and the Jacksonville air traffic controllers. Which is I think a bunch of hooey because the other airlines didn’t have this much trouble.”
Some travelers believe the real issue is the vaccine mandate set by airline for employees. Hazel Solinap said a frustrated Southwest gate agent told her that was the case.
“The lady straight up told me, she said ‘we have a lot of people not coming because they don’t want to get their vaccination’,” Solinap said.
Solinap was told when she first showed up at KCI Sunday night that her flight to Atlanta would leave on time, but she says the gate agent then said the flight didn’t have flight attendants and so they were trying to find some from other incoming flights.
“So then she came out of nowhere and said ‘we’re going to cancel this flight.’ Literally 20 minutes after departure time,” Solinap said.
Solinap is missing some major work deadlines due to the delays since she now can’t get a flight back to Atlanta until Tuesday night.
Chabarria with AAA can’t say whether vaccine requirements for airlines will cause issues.
“Most major airlines now have set a vaccine requirement for their workers and the deadline for a lot of those are in December,” Chabbarria said. “That certainly could play a factor when it comes to holiday travel this year, to what extent we’ll see the impact, that’s where we have to wait and see.”
Apart from vaccine mandates, there are other issues that could impact holiday travel.
“Demand is currently outweighing supply in a lot of travel related industries, whether it be flights, car rentals, hotels,” Chabarria said.
Rental cars are hard to come by right by now because many rental companies sold much of their fleet during the pandemic and are struggling to get back to normal due to the chip shortage in the vehicle industry.
“Just like anyone else trying to buy a car right now, probably having a hard time. The rental car companies are going through the same thing right now where they’re not able to increase their fleet to meet increased demand,” Chabarria said.
AAA recommends travelers “pack patience” and be flexible when making plans for the holidays.
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