Southwest cancels nearly 2,000 flights in two days, disrupting weekend travel

Southwest canceled nearly 2,000 flights over the weekend, citing air traffic control (ATC) issues and weather conditions as the reasons for the cancellations. 

The Dallas-based airline canceled more than 800 flights on Saturday and 1,000 flights on Sunday. These cancellations accounted for about a quarter of all scheduled flights on both days of the weekend, according to The New York Times

"We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening," the airline said in a statement to The Hill. "With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged."

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In a tweet, the airline also issued a travel advisory regarding the disruptions. 

"ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation," the tweet said.

 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said a brief staffing shortage occurred on Friday but was remedied before the weekend. The agency added in a tweet that "no FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday." 

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The FAA added in another tweet on Sunday that "some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place."

The Times reported that the cancellations were seemingly limited to Southwest Airlines. American Airlines, which had the second-highest number of cancellations for the weekend, had only about 2 percent of all scheduled flights canceled on Sunday.

In June, Southwest had similar significant delays and cancellations due to internal technological problems and issues with an external weather data supplier, the Times noted.

While the airline recently announced it would require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said that the cancellations were not because of any kind of vaccine-related protests. 

"We can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions," the union said in a press release. "Our pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive pilots in the world."

While the union has attempted to stop the mandate from going forward, it has also stated that it is not "anti-vaccination."