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Southwest Airlines cancellations impact flights in South Florida

Southwest plane sits at gate at Palm Beach International Airport, Oct. 11, 2021
Posted at 10:52 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 16:14:39-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Southwest Airlines is experiencing some turbulence after more than 1,000 flights were grounded on Sunday around the country.

Passengers said they are frustrated after getting stuck with no place to go.

One Southwest flight was canceled on Monday morning at Palm Beach International Airport. However, over the weekend at airports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, it was a very different story.

A total of 17 flights were canceled Sunday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. At Miami International Airport, more than a dozen flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.com.

Southwest Airlines flight takes off from Palm Beach International Airport, Oct. 11, 2021
A Southwest Airlines flight takes off from Palm Beach International Airport, Oct. 11, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The airline said weather and air traffic control staffing issues were to blame. The Federal Aviation Administration released this statement about the flight troubles:

"No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place."

The problems started Friday night with a handful of cancellations and delays, and then escalated to into more than 1,000 flights as of Sunday night, leaving customers fed up and stranded.

"It's ridiculous because they should be accommodating something.," said Kerry Turner, an impacted traveler at PBIA. "They only have two or three people helping. That's crazy. We both have to go to work and she's a nurse."

Southwest Airlines said it's giving customers the option to rebook their flights online.

According to FlightAware, Southwest canceled more than 350 flights nationwide on Monday and another 700 were delayed.

"I'm pissed and now they're gonna tell me they're going to give me a voucher for my flight. No they ain't. They going to give me a refund," said passenger Jim Sibley at PBIA.

Siblet and his family were fuming after trying to fly home to Atlanta. But their flight was canceled, right as passengers were getting ready to board the plane.

"They put a lot of people out. They have thousands of kids playing down here in a ball tournament this weekend and a bunch of them can't get home," Sibley said.

WPTV found lines at the Southwest ticket counter inside PBIA. And downstairs at baggage claim, Leslie Trowbridge decided she'd rather than drive to Atlanta instead of waiting for another flight.

"I looked at flying a different airline but all the costs are expensive and I said nope I'm just going to get in my car I know I can make it in my car," Trowbridge said.

Southwest canceled some 2,000 flights over the weekend blaming bad weather and air traffic control issues, but the FAA responded saying there haven't been any staffing shortages since Friday.

"It's crazy and if it has to do with vaccine mandates it irritates the heck out of me," Trowbridge said.

Rumors about a pilot walkout have been soaring since Southwest announced all employees must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines sent this statement to WPTV on Monday:

"Southwest Airlines extends a tremendous apology to our Customers and Employees for the flight cancellations and delays which occurred over the weekend and on Monday.

On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday.

While we do not have specific airport numbers to share, Southwest Teams have been working diligently to restore stability to the network, and we are experiencing less disruptions on Monday. We hope to restore our full schedule as soon as possible. As a note, the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations, as some outlets are reporting.

To every Customer that experienced a cancellation or delay, Southwest offers our sincerest regret regarding disrupted travel plans, and we look forward to a future opportunity to demonstrate our safe, reliable, friendly, and legendary Southwest Hospitality – something that Customers should always expect from Southwest Airlines.

If Customers require assistance from Southwest, they can utilize one of the airline’s self-service options for convenience or Contact Us via one of the methods listed on Southwest.com."

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has claimed the cancellations were due to "management's poor planning." 

Southwest said it's giving customers the option to rebook their flights online.

To see the latest flight schedules and information at PBIA, click here.