Estimated 1,000 travelers slept at Denver airport Monday amid Southwest cancellations

Travel delays. Southwest luggage line.
Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
People looking for their lost luggage line up outside Southwest Airlines’ office near the baggage carousel at Midway International Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Chicago, after Southwest Airlines flights were cancelled and delayed during winter storm Elliott. Passengers from flights across the U.S. looked for and waited for their lost luggage Tuesday morning. (Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

An estimated 1,000 travelers spent Monday night at Denver International Airport amid a wave of flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines.

The number of people having to spend the night in the airport did tumble on Tuesday to 50 or fewer people, Denver International Airport’s Alex Renteria told The Hill in an email.

Denver has been at the center of the storm when it comes to flight cancellations.

On Monday, more than 460 flights through Denver International were canceled, and the airport saw more canceled flights than any other on Tuesday as well, according to FlightAware.

Tuesday saw 362 flights canceled, including 183 originating from the airport. Numbers were similarly high Wednesday.

Southwest had accounted for 2,508 of the 2,795 canceled flights within, into or out of the U.S. as of Wednesday morning. Southwest canceled more than 60 percent of its flights Tuesday and Wednesday, with 58 percent already canceled for Thursday.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan released a video statement on Tuesday evening apologizing for the issues and referring to winter weather that swept through the country over the holiday weekend.

“Our network is highly complex and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews remaining in motion to where they’re planned to go,” Jordan said. “With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position in dozens of locations, and after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying to catch up.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talked with Jordan Tuesday and “conveyed that he expects the airline to live up to the commitments it has made to passengers,” according to a statement from the Department of Transportation, “including providing meal vouchers, refunds and hotel accommodations for those experiencing significant delays or cancellations that came about as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions.”

Jordan said in his statement that the company hoped to “be back on track before next week.”

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