Southwest Airlines cancels hundreds of flights nationwide

If you're flying Southwest Airlines this weekend, make sure to check your flight before you leave for the airport.

An air traffic control issue combined with weather delays on the East Coast have caused problems across the airline's network, forcing the Dallas-based carrier to delay and cancel hundreds of flights. 

By Saturday afternoon, the flight-tracking website Flight Aware showed Southwest with 568 cancellations and 717 delayed flights nationwide. 

"Air Traffic Control (ATC) issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend as we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers as quickly as possible," Southwest said in an emailed statement. 

After receiving pushback to that initial statement online from those who pointed out that the Federal Aviation Administration's delay website showed no evidence of delays, the airline issued an updated statement. 

"We experienced significant impact in the Florida airports yesterday evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather and resulted in a large number of cancellations.

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"We are working hard behind the scenes to minimize challenges and fully recover the operation as we take care of displaced Crews and Customers as quickly as possible. We will continue to reset our network today and hope to return to close to normal operations as we move into Sunday," the statement from Southwest read.

Southwest did not comment on speculations circulating online claiming the issues might be related to labor action due to vaccine mandates.

A spokesperson for the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association told The Arizona Republic that the organization was unaware of any labor-related issues and would not condone any sort of work stoppage. 

Though the issues did not happen in Phoenix, the impact is being felt in the Valley just as families are traveling to take advantage of fall break. By 1:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Sky Harbor showed 110 flights delayed and 53 canceled. 

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

Allyson Therien planned to head home to Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday morning but was unable to due to Southwest canceling her flight twice in one day.

Therien had been in Phoenix for over a week visiting family and booked a flight home Saturday morning. 

“I was booked on a flight home to Omaha from Phoenix at 12:10 p.m. today. Received a text at 6:10 a.m. today that my flight was canceled and was redirected to rebook online,” Therien told The Republic. “I got the last seat on the last flight to Omaha today, leaving at 6:50 p.m. That flight just got canceled via text and am rebooked for a flight leaving tomorrow at 7:20 p.m.”

However, she said she’s “90% sure” that the flight will also be canceled given the issues the airline has been experiencing.

“I am here for vacation, visiting family. Fortunately, that means that I have a free place to stay and flexibility,” Therien said. “However, I was supposed to be in Minnesota for work on Monday morning.”

The airline recommends customers use online, self-service rebooking options on southwest.com.

"We encourage travelers to check their flight status with their airline before coming to the airport. And, especially because it is Fall Break, travelers should give themselves extra time and arrive early," Heather Shelbrack, spokesperson for Sky Harbor, said when reached by email. 

Republic reporter Haleigh Kochanski contributed to this article.

You can connect with Arizona Republic Consumer Travel Reporter Melissa Yeager through email at melissa.yeager@azcentral.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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