Southwest Airlines faces fifth day of delays, cancellations

Southwest said it's seeing the carrier's 'exponential improvement by the hour'

Southwest Airlines continued to cancel and delay a handful of flights Tuesday although it expects "exponential improvement by the hour." 

The Texas-based carrier said in a statement to Fox Business that it projects to have approximately 90 system-wide cancellations out of the airline’s almost 3,300 flights scheduled on Tuesday – marking the fifth day of operation woes for the carrier.  

According to flight tracker FlightAware, Southwest already canceled 87 flights as of 11 a.m. ET. Meanwhile, approximately 370 flights have already been delayed, according to the data.     

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It's a far cry from over the weekend, when the carrier canceled more than 1,000 flights, or 29% of its schedule, on Sunday alone. On Saturday, the airline canceled 808 flights and had 1,187 flights delayed.  

In this frame grab from cellphone video, passengers look for information on their flights, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at Dallas Love Field.  ((AP Photo/Julie March / AP Newsroom)

Disruptions began to ease Monday with cancellations amounting to 10% of Southwest’s schedule. At least 1,400 other flights, or roughly 40%, were delayed, according to FlightAware.  

Southwest said it had experienced weather challenges in its Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, which were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, which triggered delays and prompted significant cancellations beginning Friday evening.   


"To recap the weekend cancellations, the bad weather and ATC issues in Florida, a large operation for us, on Friday night created significant flight disruptions throughout our network and we spent the weekend working to recover from the high number of displaced Crews and aircraft," the carrier told FOX Business in a statement.  

Unclaimed baggage wells up between carousels for passengers arriving on Southwest Airlines flights at Denver International Airport late Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski / AP Newsroom)

The issues were "not a result of Employee demonstrations, as some have reported," the airline continued. 

The disruption left passengers stranded and steaming from California to the East Coast, with many airing their frustrations out on social media. 

CEO Gary Kelly issued an apology to impacted customers during an interview on "Good Morning America" Tuesday morning saying, "This is not what we want but unfortunately, it just takes a couple of days to get things back on track."


The widespread disruptions began shortly after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, representing 9,000 pilots, asked a federal court on Friday to block the airline’s order that all employees get vaccinated. The union argued that Southwest must negotiate over the issue because it could involve sick leave or disability if pilots have a reaction to the vaccine.

However, the association denied claims that it had any connection to the cancelations and delays.

"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," the organization said in a statement Saturday. "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." 

Passengers queue up at the ticketing counter for Southwest Airlines flights in Eppley Airfield Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Omaha, Nebraska. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski / AP Newsroom)

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged delays in parts of Florida on Friday but pushed back against Southwest’s air traffic control explanation. The FAA said Sunday that "some airlines" were experiencing problems because of planes and crews being out of position. Southwest was the only airline to report such a large percentage of canceled and delayed flights over the weekend.

Kelly defended the airline, saying it was hit so hard because over half its fleet touches the Sunshine State. 

"We have a linear route system. We're just different." Kelly said, further arguing that "everyone was impacted on Friday and everyone was impacted in a very big way." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.