NATIONAL NEWS

Southwest cancels more than 700 flights, blaming weather

Jan 15, 2024, 2:48 PM

Travelers walk past the Southwest Airlines check-in counter at Denver International Airport in 2022...

Travelers walk past the Southwest Airlines check-in counter at Denver International Airport in 2022. (Michael Ciaglo, Getty Images)

(Michael Ciaglo, Getty Images)

(CNN) — Flight cancelations across the country continue to cause headaches for thousands of travelers, and Southwest is topping the list of most-affected airlines for the second consecutive day. But the source and scope of these disruptions are different from the meltdown the airline endured a year ago.

As of Monday afternoon, the airline has canceled more than 700 flights, about 18% of its schedule, setting off alarm bells that the nightmarish travel weekend could be the start of another operational fiasco for the company.

But, according to the airline, this isn’t a technology issue like the 10-day service meltdown that left more than 2 million travelers stranded during the 2022 holiday season and cost the company more than a billion dollars.

Source of the flight cancelations

The problem is the weather. A huge swath of the country has been pummeled with harsh winter conditions this weekend, and more than 140 million people are currently under wind chill alerts stretching from the Rockies to central Texas. Over 140 daily cold records could be broken Monday and Tuesday from Oregon to Mississippi, and temperatures in Memphis, Dallas and Nashville are expected to stay below freezing for at least 72 consecutive hours.

Southwest said the delays had been pre-planned and communicated to customers in advance. The scheduling changes were carried out “to anticipate forecasted operating conditions across a wide swath of our route map – everything from wintry precipitation including blizzard conditions, to airfield and airspace constraints, and dangerous wind chill environments that require rotating ground crews to limit exposure,” a spokesperson told CNN in a statement.

Cancellations and delays should ease up considerably on Tuesday “as the storm moves East and the cold temperatures begin to moderate,” the spokesperson added. The airline pointed to a list of operational steps that it says it took in 2023 to ensure that the level of disruption that happened in 2022 does not repeat itself, including updates to crew scheduling systems and more de-icing equipment at airports.

Travel meltdown of 2022

Unlike the Southwest Airlines holiday travel meltdown of 2022, the company says the recent string of cancellations are mostly due to where Southwest flies in and out of, rather than technical issues, and that unlike the last incident, it should recover quickly.

Southwest is a major carrier at some airports that are now engulfed in an Arctic blast paralyzing much of the country. In particular, it maintains a significant presence in Chicago and Denver, which are both under wind chill advisories from the National Weather Service, and Dallas, which the NWS says could face dangerous winter conditions this week.

And Southwest isn’t the only airline that has found the icy conditions challenging. American Airlines requested a ground stop at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport earlier Monday morning. “The ground stop from earlier was a temporary effort to alleviate the lines at the de-icing pads and free up space at the gates for inbound aircraft during our busiest arrival bank at DFW,” the airline told CNN.

Delays caused by winter weather

The relentless winter weather caused major delays over the long holiday weekend. Saturday and Sunday saw more than 16,500 flight delays and nearly 3,000 cancellations across the United States, according to FlightAware. On Monday, the number of cancellations climbed past 2,500 while more than 6,500 flights have been postponed, making it the day with the most cancellations since the Southwest meltdown in late 2022, FlightAware data show.

These weather-related delays are exacerbating an already difficult week for airlines and their passengers. Last week, more than 200 United and Alaska Airlines flights were canceled each day due to the federally mandated grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration instated the order after a piece of the fuselage blew off an Alaska Airlines flight on January 5 with 177 people on board. The incident left a gaping hole in the side of the plane and ripped headrests off seats as the plane flew at 16,000 feet, shortly after taking off from Portland, Oregon.

United and Alaska Airlines, the two largest US carriers using the Max 9 aircraft, are among the airlines canceling the most flights, according to the Anuvu Pulse industry dashboard. United has canceled nearly 13% of its flights, making it the second most affected airline behind Southwest, which doesn’t fly any Max 9 planes. Alaska Airlines experienced the third-highest rate of cancellations on Sunday, having called off about 15% of its total flights.

Both airlines said last week they have canceled all flights on their Max 9 planes until mid-January.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE: The University of Wyoming campus sign with the Wyoming Union in the background Friday March 2...

Mead Gruver

Highway crash in Colorado kills three University of Wyoming swimmers

A single-vehicle wreck on a highway in northern Colorado killed three members of the University of Wyoming swimming and diving team.

3 hours ago

This image released by the U.S. Department of Justice in an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Co...

Denise Lavoie and Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

4 charged in transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons. Two SEALs died in intercepting the ship

Four foreign nationals have been charged with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons after U.S. naval forces interdicted a vessel in the Arabian Sea last month.

17 hours ago

This image provided by the Denver Police Department shows Miles Harford. Denver police are asking f...

Associated Press

Denver police search a former funeral home owner who kept the cremated remains of at least 30 people

Denver police are asking for the public's help in finding a former funeral home owner who they say kept a woman's body in a hearse for two years and also kept the cremated remains of at least 30 people.

19 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden's dog Commander looks out from the balcony during a pardoning ceremony f...

Camila DeChalus and Betsy Klein, CNN

Bidens’ dog, Commander, bit Secret Service personnel in at least 24 incidents, records show

The new 24 incidents do not include the other incidents that were previously reported involving executive residence staff and other White House workers.

19 hours ago

A humpback whale breaches near Bering Island off Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. The unique structure...

Amarachi Orie, CNN

Mystery of whale song unraveled by scientists, study says

Whale songs are one of the most mysterious sounds to have been heard reverberating through the ocean.

20 hours ago

A person looking at the NVIDIA Grace Hopper superchip...

Nicole Goodkind, CNN

S&P 500 and Dow hit new highs as Nvidia fervor takes hold of Wall Street

Stocks soared to new highs on Thursday after Nvidia, the third largest company on Wall Street, blew past earnings expectations and bolstered investor optimism on Wall Street.

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Southwest cancels more than 700 flights, blaming weather