Airlines cancel thousands of flights amid winter storm chaos, with Southwest losing 70%

Airlines have canceled thousands of flights in what has become a Christmas nightmare for so many, as winter storms and staffing issues continue to wreak havoc across the US

Most major airlines have canceled or delayed thousands of flights, with Southwest Airlines canceling at least 70% of its flights Monday due to a reported system meltdown. The airline has also canceled 60% of its flights for Tuesday.

On Christmas Day, 42% of Southwest’s flights were canceled and 48% were delayed, according to data from FlightAware.

Jay McVay with Southwest Airlines said Monday night that the “magnitude of the storms”[ads1]; nationwide affected all major airports.

“It’s just the fact that this started the West swept east and affected almost every single one of our major airports that put us in a position where we struggled to recover and we struggled to get our aircrews and our planes where they needed to be , ” McVay said from Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport.

Captain Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said in a statement earlier Monday that the ordeal has “been disastrous.”

“It’s been a failure at every level at Southwest. Our pilots, our front-line employees have been working under tremendous stress trying to get our passengers from A to B, but we were dealt a very bad hand when it comes to Southwest. Murray said in part and added that their “processes,” information technology or infrastructure “just weren’t there to support the operation.”

“And unfortunately, our customers bear the brunt of it,” Murray added.

Angry Southwest customers took to Twitter on Monday to share their frustrations over delays, cancellations and long waits to speak with customer service agents.

“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, ongoing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest said in a statement posted online. “And our heartfelt apologies for this have only just begun.”

Southwest said it is working to “address the widespread disruption” by relocating the crew and planes, which were all in the wrong locations.

ABC News spoke with three stranded travelers — one staying overnight at a Boston airport for her new flight, one stranded in Chicago after his flight was canceled and one driving with a stranger to get to a Disney Cruise in Tampa after flight problems.

Airlines cancel thousands of flights amid winter storm chaos, with Southwest losing 70%

Passengers line up at the Delta Air Lines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, December 25, 2022.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

Each traveler blamed delays on staffing rather than the weather.

ABC News reached out to American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta and United to learn how staffing is affecting their current delays and cancellations.

“I wanted to fly home for Christmas,” Laetitia Duler, who flew home to San Francisco from Boston for the holidays, told ABC News. “As soon as I got in line, they just said ‘your flights cancelled. Like, bye.”

Eric Jernigan was trying to fly from Jackson, Mississippi, to Tampa, Florida, for a Disney cruise when his Delta flight was canceled due to crew shortages, he told ABC News.

He and five others decided to drive to Florida after getting stuck at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.

The city of Buffalo, New York instituted a travel ban as the blizzards moved into the area.

According to New York Governor Kathy Hochul and local officials, 29 people have died in the state in the wake of a massive lake-effect snowstorm.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport announced Monday that it will be closed until Wednesday as crews work “around the clock” to get the airport back up and running.

ABC News’ Cherise Rudy contributed to this report.

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