Southwest flight Cancelations


To combat their low staff, Southwest cancels thousands of flights and leaves travelers with no solutions. Customers were left stranded in airport terminals waiting on re-scheduled flights that never arrived.

Racing through airport terminals and rushing through TSA lines come to mind at the thought of air travel during the holidays, but flyers this year had more to deal with than a long security line.

Beginning December 25 and 26, some of the most heavy travel days in the world, the airline Southwest ordered a company-wide “reset”. This entailed halted ticket sales, mass delays, and most of all cancellations across the country all during a severe winter storm plaguing the nation.

These cancellations began small, around 25 percent of the airline’s flights at first, but that number would soon grow. As the storm surged on and Southwest continued to shift cancellation blame on the weather, thousands of holiday travelers were stranded not only in unfamiliar cities, but in airports without accommodations.

In addition to leaving passengers stranded, the airline made no attempt to aid their customers in finding lost luggage. Choosing to close support phone lines due to the mass influx of callers. A woman at the San Diego International Airport describes her experience trying to find her luggage, “this is my second day coming to this terminal to try to find our bags, it’s impossible to even start looking for it in the sea of other lost bags”.

Passengers felt that they needed to “fend for themselves” as a result of lost communication with all Southwest management. This loss of communication entailed shut downs of the airline’s app (the only resource for checking flight statuses) and silence between the airline’s headquarters and gate agents/ground crew actually dealing with the chaos firsthand.

At airports, gate agents were left with no information to give flyers, and were subsequently left out to dry. All while, ground crew had no clue what planes to prepare for flight or what planes would be landing and in need of help.

Additionally, pilots were in short supply and were forced to work all the way up to the maximum hours they were legally able to fly. Flight attendants were another commodity in short supply as many flights could not take off as a result of missing one or more of the number needed for a commercial flight.

Those on the “front lines” of this chaos should receive praise unlike their employers though. Employees such as gate agents were left to try and desperately help hundreds of angry travelers try to fix their plans. Most of these conversations ended with agents having to inform said travelers that the soonest available rescheduled flight was after December 31.

Delivering terrible news such as this and attempting to quell the chaos brought on by the meltdown was a task employees of Southwest will be positively remembered for. In contrast to the majority negative opinion on the company’s higher-ups and management.

This negative view of Southwest’s management was only amplified when by December 27 many travelers were still stranded in airports and speculation arose that this meltdown was the result of operational system malfunctions instead of difficult weather as originally claimed.

As the number of canceled flights soared, reaching over 5,500 flights in one day, public opinion of the airline was on the decline. The spread of information about terrible conditions for both passengers and employees of the company reached social media immediately.

Many passengers took to social media to warn future passengers of what to be prepared for. “If you’re thinking of flying Southwest DON’T. Every single flight has been canceled for five days! There are hundreds of people stranded across the country” said a passenger on Tiktok.

The state of Southwest terminals at this point of the meltdown was embarrassing for the airline. “People were sleeping on the floor with their families, and bags were everywhere. The terminal was even hot because of the amount of people crowded in” says Reese Elazar ‘25 recounting her experience.

These struggles had mostly sorted themselves out by early January. Even though the airline fixed issues with later flights it’s image was scarred more heavily than any other airlines in recent years. Stranding thousands of loyal customers in inhospitable conditions during some of the most important holidays of the year is a memory that will not be soon forgotten. Especially when those customers have to choose what airline their next flight will be on.

The company’s future is uncertain, and while many are calling for the law holding Southwest accountable in some way it is unknown if anything will come from those desires.