12.6 C
New York
Sunday, October 24, 2021

Buy now

spot_img

High Desert family left stranded at Chicago airport after Southwest canceled over 1,000 flights – VVdailypress.com

A High Desert grandmother and granddaughter were stranded at Chicago Midway International Airport for nearly three days after Southwest Airlines canceled nearly a third of its scheduled flights over the weekend.

Apple Valley High School student Katelyn Rose and her grandmother, Paula Baxter, canceled their East Coast trip and were headed back home Monday after calling the Chicago airport their temporary home.

They decided to travel during Rose’s fall break, Baxter told the Daily Press on Sunday night. “But instead of visiting family in New Hampshire, several of our flights got canceled, and we got stuck living here at the airport.”

Knowing that her granddaughter was due back in school on Oct. 18, and fearing more cancellations, Baxter and Rose decided it was time to return home.

On Monday afternoon, the duo finally boarded a flight bound for Sacramento International Airport, with Ontario International Airport in their sights after that. Barring any problems, they were expected back in Southern California by 7:30 p.m. Monday, Rose said Sunday.

“I’m just hoping our flight doesn’t get canceled,” Rose, 15, said.

Canceled flights

After leaving Ontario and arriving in Chicago on Saturday, Southwest Airlines officials told them their flight to Boston Logan International Airport had been canceled for a variety of reasons.

Southwest officials then told Baxter that she and Rose had been rebooked on flights to Kansas City and then LaGuardia Airport in New York.

“The plan was for family to drive down from New Hampshire to pick us up,” Baxter said. “But I got a text from the airlines saying that the flight to LaGuardia had been canceled — not rebooked — canceled.”

Southwest gave them a voucher but didn’t offer a hotel, Rose said, adding that, with no cars to rent, everyone was “stranded and waiting to catch a flight that just might be canceled.”

Out of options, Baxter and Rose slept on the floor or in chairs, ate lots of airport food and watched their fellow non-travelers grow more angry and frustrated, Baxter said.

Grounded flights

On Sunday night, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 weekend flights nationwide, or nearly 29% of its schedule, the Associated Press reported.

An email from Southwest officials said the airline had experienced weather challenges in its Florida airports. Those issues were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, which triggered delays and prompted significant cancellations for the airline beginning Friday evening, the AP reported.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials tweeted, “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Flight delays & cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday PM due to widespread severe weather, military training, & limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville en route center.”

On Sunday, the FAA tweeted again, this time to say that some airlines continued to “experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”

Southwest Airlines pilots on Friday asked a court to temporarily block the company from carrying out federally mandated COVID-19 vaccinations until an existing lawsuit over alleged U.S. labor law violations was resolved, Bloomberg reported.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association also asked for an immediate hearing before a federal court in Dallas, claiming the airline continued to take unilateral actions that violate terms of the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline-union relations. Those steps include the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Henry H. Harteveldt, president and travel industry analyst at The Atmosphere Research Group, cited several reasons for flight cancellations, including Southwest scheduling more flights than it could handle.

He also noted that in Southwest’s point-to-point route network, when a delay occurs it “cascades” and causes issues with the remaining flight segments.

Harteveldt said the most troubling reason for the cancellations was the likelihood that some Southwest pilots who oppose the airline’s decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations are calling in sick, or otherwise engaging in a “work slowdown,” the AP reported.

“Some airline employees told us that they were short-handed because people were calling off work,” Rose said. “They said pilots were calling out due to sickness because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.”

“Because of this vaccine mandate, pilot walk out, flights are being canceled and we’ve been thrust into the middle of a horror show with thousands of other travelers,” said Baxter, who lives in Victorville.

Over the weekend, many travelers took to social media alleging that Southwest employees told them the cancellations occurred because of a pilot walkout.

Jennifer Backer tweeted, “#SouthwestHeart two Southwest agents and a Delta flight attendant have all said flight cancellations are due employees calling in sick over a union dispute/vaccine mandate. This does not square with your public messages.”

In a statement Saturday, Southwest’s pilot union said that was not the case, adding that they were aware of operational difficulties affecting the airline. 

The pilot union also said its “pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.”

Harteveldt noted Southwest’s issues could linger and affect its fourth-quarter financial performance.

“All of this is happening as people are in the midst of booking their Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year holiday travel,” he said. “It’s very possible that some people who might normally book on Southwest may see this news and choose to fly other airlines.”

Of the weekend cancellations, Southwest had the highest rate of all the major U.S. airlines, followed by Allegiant and Spirit, which canceled 5 and 4%, respectively. American Airlines canceled 2% of its flights, according to Flight Tracker.

Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.

?s=96&d=mm&r=g

Related Articles

Stay Connected

0FansLike
2,991FollowersFollow
0SubscribersSubscribe
- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles