Southwest Airlines flight cancellations carry into Monday

Southwest Airlines canceled some of its flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Monday after a weekend operational meltdown. Credit: John Spink / ajc.com

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Southwest Airlines canceled some of its flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Monday after a weekend operational meltdown. Credit: John Spink / ajc.com

The lingering effects of a massive disruption of Southwest Airlines flights over the weekend continued into Monday in Atlanta and nationally.

The airline had already canceled about 363 flights as of Monday afternoon, or 10% of its total flights.

At Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where Southwest is the No. 2 carrier by traffic after Delta Air Lines, about 27 Southwest flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.com.

That’s after 1,124 Southwest flight cancellations nationally Sunday, or 30% of the airline’s total flights, including 58 flight cancellations in Atlanta, FlightAware’s data show.

Dallas-based Southwest said its problems started Friday evening when bad weather and air traffic control staffing shortages in Florida led to flight cancellations.

That left Southwest’s planes and flight crews out of place around the country, which contributed to nearly 2,000 flight cancellations over the weekend.

On Monday morning, Southwest said it is “closer to normal operation today,” but also has some additional flight cancellations due to weather.

Southwest’s executive vice president of daily operations, Alan Kasher, sent a memo to employees Sunday apologizing for the struggles, saying it “could not anticipate the significant disruption that was created from unexpected (air traffic control) issues and bad weather across our Florida stations.”

The unexpected delays led to a staffing shortage, more flight cancellations and fewer flights to reroute passengers whose flights were disrupted, according to Kasher.

Kasher acknowledged that “our Customers are not happy.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said the air traffic control disruptions were limited to a few hours Friday afternoon due to limited staffing at its Jacksonville air traffic facility, along with severe weather and military training. “Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place,” the FAA said in a statement.

The cancellations come after the Southwest pilots union filed a federal lawsuit Aug. 30 over conflicts in labor contract negotiations. Last week the union also filed a temporary restraining order in an attempt to stop a Southwest employee vaccine mandate.

But the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association union denied any pilot work slowdown or so-called sick-out. The union said while the Friday air traffic control issues caused only minor impact for other airlines, it triggered a meltdown for Southwest “because our operation has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.”

“Our Pilots are tired and frustrated because our operation is running on empty due to lack of support from the Company,” the pilots union said in a statement.

The thousands of flight cancellations over the weekend come after a Southwest reservations computer network glitch caused a nationwide ground stop and flight disruptions in June.

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