Southwest flight delays and cancellations from the weekend continued into Monday, with nearly 2,000 flights canceled and thousands more delayed as the airline tries to get a handle on what appears to be problems due to limited staffing and air traffic control.
NBC Palms Springs spoke to travelers local and traveling nationwide. Many people had to alter their travel plans, some even deciding to rent a car and drive more than 20 hours to make it home.
“We are currently on an unplanned road trip back to Phoenix, Arizona from Portland, Oregon,” explained Monique Younan, whose Southwest flight was canceled.
Many passengers left in frustration as Southwest Airlines canceled and delayed thousands of flights over the weekend citing a traffic control incident.
“The Southwest attendant let us know that there had been a traffic control incident in Texas that caused a delay for crew members, so they were having a hard time staffing flights, they literally used the term snowball effect, that was causing a delay for all their flights,” added Younan.
The Younan’s, after multiple delays on Sunday, decide to rent a car, driving the entire state of California to their destination in Gilbert, Arizona.
Passengers who travel on Southwest regularly say they have been noticing these types of delays for years now.
“In the past five years, the past six out of ten flights that I’ve taken, there’s been a delay, there’s been something going on with my flights. either my baggage got lost or something like that, so i think this issue has been persistent since before the pandemic,” explained Lance Watkins, Southwest passenger.
Southwest telling NBC Palm Springs in a statement “on Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints…”
And after rumors of employees calling out sick to protest vaccine mandates, the airline said, “the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest employee demonstrations.”
Meanwhile, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association attributed the problems to a number of things including staffing, also saying these distributions have been happening for quite some time.
“It’s the scheduling process, it’s also it, and a lack of true support. This has been going on and we’ve identified some of these problems four years ago, we’ve seen this issue, the same issue that happened this weekend has happened for the past two years. we saw it this summer to a much greater degree,” said Casey Murray, President of The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.
And back here in the valley, Palm Springs International Airport was only slightly affected by the delays but says they are keeping an eye on the issue.
“As of today, we are not seeing any major delays or cancellations or anything like that. I think we had one cancellation earlier this morning but as of right now all of our flights are running on time,” explained Daniel Meier, Director of Marketing & Air Service Development, Palm Springs International Airport.
Southwest also tells NBC Palm Springs that they have been working diligently to restore stability to their network and they hope to have the full schedule up and running as soon as possible.