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Southwest Airlines made headlines on Monday after over 1,800 flights had been cancelled since the weekend.
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The airline posted a note to its Twitter and Facebook pages where it was unsurprisingly met with angry responses from disgruntled and affected customers.
ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/o1scQJ5lLb
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 9, 2021
“ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation,” the company said, citing the weather and performance issues as the primary reason for flight cancellations.
Southwest is trying to cover up over 800 flights being cancelled today, including my connecting flight home from Chicago. They are officially claiming ATC issues and inclement weather, while it is sunny throughout the north east. The truth is that pilots are on strike due to
— Nitul Purohit (@Nitboi7) October 10, 2021
Sitting in Midway airport where numerous Southwest Airlines flights have been cancelled. Customer service lines are hours long, people are yelling, patience has left the building. Representatives are doing their best but passengers are stranded and furious. Anyone have answers?
— Rebecca Gray (@1313Becky) October 9, 2021
What’s going on with Southwest Airlines? Every departure is delayed and I got royally shafted with my early morning flight today. Sold out flights are being cancelled.
— Vince Smith (@Southernpilot) October 9, 2021
Flight has been cancelled at least 5 times since yesterday and today!!!! Unacceptable!! I was a big fan of southwest!! 8 am cancelled today 4:45 cancelled today. Currently in Atlanta right now suppose to board at 7pm and they say they are looking for a first officer? WTF!
— Damian Senquiz (@DamianSenquiz) October 9, 2021
Southwest Airlines is claiming that weather is partially responsible for their massive operational and PR nightmare because if it’s weather-related, they don’t have to refund their customers. This is entirely self-inflicted.
— Eric Matheny (@EricMMatheny) October 11, 2021
Whatever this is about, @SouthwestAir #Southwest you could, at the very least, own up and take responsibility vs passing it on to the customer. NOT giving refunds!? I’ll bet there are 1000’s of ppl like myself that are losing money because our flights have been cancelled
— Judah Kim (@judahkimmusic) October 11, 2021
@SouthwestAir hey maybe you could refund people their tix (right away) if you cancel their flights and there’s no rebooking option, and they wait on hold 5.5 hrs only to speak with no one. #SouthwestAirlines #Southwest
— Carissa Graham (@carissa_graham) October 11, 2021
— Josh McCulloch (@JoshMcCulloch) October 11, 2021
— Mhairi Harrison (@HarrisonMhairi) October 9, 2021
I have a friend who had a Southwest flight, was stranded in Dallas after one leg of the flight was finished, and the airline refused to give her any vouchers for food or hotel, a refund, or even reschedule the flight.
— The Spooky Tove (@TKDano) October 10, 2021
@SouthwestAir got my flights canceled twice this weekend, missing my whole first week of grad school, and on hold for going on two hours trying to get a refund because your website is not working. Please put me in touch with someone Southwest
— Kennedy Crider (@Kennedy_Nicole6) October 11, 2021
Hey @SouthwestAir thank you for absolutely ruining my surprise anniversary trip I planned to Las Vegas, causing me to lose all the money I’ve spent on the trip. Where’s my refund plus lost expenses? #Southwest #SouthwestAirlines #southwestsickout #southwestairline
— Will Thompson (@willthompson116) October 11, 2021
Many suggested that the mass cancellations had to do with the airline’s recent vaccine mandate, which states that all employees of the company must be vaccinated by December 8, 2021.
“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said at the time.
It is plausible that lack of staffing due to rumored strikes and walk outs could be the reason for the mass cancellations.
Many on Twitter claimed that the airline was not offering immediate refunds or vouchers, which is something many said that the company is not required to do if flights are involuntarily cancelled due to weather or other external circumstances.
“Southwest does its best to operate flights as scheduled. Sometimes, events beyond our control or situations we could not anticipate prevent us from doing so,” the airline’s website states. “In order to mitigate Customer inconveniences, we provide the following assistance in the event a flight is delayed, canceled, or diverted: Rebooking on the next available Southwest flight(s) with seats available to your ticketed destination; A refund of the unused portion of your Southwest ticket.”
Customers called for the airline to “own up and take responsibility” over the situation and called the cancellations both “self-inflicted” and a “PR nightmare.”
However SWAPA, the pilot union that represents Soutwest’s pilots, claims that the unrest with the new vaccine mandate and the ongoing flight cancellations are not related.
“SWAPA is aware of operational difficulties affecting Southwest Airlines today due to a number of issues, but we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions. Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world. They will continue to be focused on their highest priority — safety,” the organization said in a statement on Saturday. “SWAPA Pilots are true professionals and will always maintain the highest level of responsibility to their crews, their passengers, and our airline.”
The union also sued Southwest Airlines last month due to the company’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming that the company altered pay and labor conditions during the travel slump.
“Southwest remains committed to pilots’ health and welfare and to working with SWAPA, and our other union partners, as we continue navigating the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic,” Southwest’s Vice President for labor relations Russell McCrady said at the time in response.
Southwest Airlines was down 3.68% from the day prior as of late Monday afternoon.