Southwest Airlines reduces cancellations after chaos sparked traveler outrage

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  • Southwest apologized to customers for the chaos that has disrupted travel since Saturday.
  • The airline said bad weather and air traffic control issues triggered problems that were worsened by a shortage of its own staff.
  • Southwest was struggling throughout the summer with insufficient staffing to meet the packed schedule.

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Southwest Airlines canceled 87 flights, or 2% of its schedule, on Tuesday, a sign the carrier is stabilizing its operations after chaos over the weekend disrupted travel plans for thousands of customers.

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According to flight-tracking site FlightAware, the Dallas-based airline has canceled nearly 2,400 flights since Saturday, blaming a number of factors, including a lack of its own staff, especially with backup pilots and flight attendants when things go wrong. Goes.

The disruption peaked at more than 1,100 cancellations on Sunday, as nearly 30% of Southwest flights were canceled as the carrier attempted its biggest schedule since April 2020.

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“Southwest Airlines apologizes to our customers and employees for the cancellations and delays that occurred over the weekend and Monday,” the airline said in a statement on its website on Tuesday.

The carrier said bad weather and air traffic control issues in Florida outweighed its problems, leaving aircraft and crew out of place and snowballing into hundreds of cancellations.

Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents the carrier’s more than 9,000 pilots, told CNBC that the airline’s poor planning was to blame for the issues. The airline has already reduced its fall schedule because of disruptions following complaints of employee exhaustion throughout the summer.

Southwest’s chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven, who was promoted to president last month, told employees on Sunday it could cut its schedule further and that it was trying to create a “staffing cushion”. Is.

Over the weekend, 2,176 Southwest flights were canceled due to unavailable crew, the pilots’ union told members late Tuesday.

Murray told CNBC that the pilots made most of the open trips because of the disruption.

The union said October is on track to be the second-worst month for pilot fatigue calls since August, which stood at a record 633. The airline cut its schedule shortly thereafter.

It also said that there are more sick calls than last October.

“But they were not affected by the chronic maning problems and cumulative fatigue occurring since June last October,” the union wrote. “When you look at the figures for 2021, the rate of sickening is slowly increasing as our crews continue to worsen from operations. The fatigue figures confirm that figure.”

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