Written by WCPO’s Anna Azallion
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will look into the widespread Southwest Airlines delays and cancelations this holiday weekend that have lasted into this week.
As of Wednesday morning, at least 10 Southwest flights have been canceled into and out of CVG.
This comes after the airline canceled 62% of its flights across the country Tuesday and about 70% of departures from CVG.
This is creating a mess for travelers across the country.
“They keep saying, ‘Flight crew’s on its way,’ but there’s no flight crew on its way,” Austin Metzger said.
After spending seven hours stuck in the San Diego International Airport on Christmas Day, multiple Southwest flight delays eventually turned into a cancelation for Metzger.
“I sat in the airport all Christmas,” Metzger said.
Metzger was able to fly again Tuesday, but still had to deal with hours-long delays before he finally was able to land in Cincinnati in the evening.
“I’ve never had flights like this where if it’s delayed, usually you know in advance, if it’s canceled you know in advance,” he said. “But they have you sit there and wait for hours after you’re supposed to be picked up, then say it’s canceled instead of giving you much advance notice.”
Some Southwest flyers are luckier than others.
James Jemison celebrated his 77th birthday on Christmas Day. After his flight was canceled, Jemison and his wife were able to book the last two open seats on another airline last minute in order to get home Tuesday night.
Jemison said he wouldn’t have known about the cancelation if his friend hadn’t told him to check his email the night before.
“I would have been ticked if I had gotten up early in the morning, get to the airport try and go through TSA and all that and then find out my flight was canceled. That would have been a bad thing,” he said. “We were able to book another flight, otherwise it would be Saturday they told us before we could get back to Cincinnati.”
Southwest customers have been vocal on social media about the cancelations, delays and long hold times to talk with a customer service agent.
The lack of communication is what’s causing the most turbulence now, Metzger said.
“The phone lines are shot so you can’t get a hold of everybody,” he said. “If you want to talk to somebody you’ve got to wait in a five-hour line, so you pretty much just hope for the best.”
“You gotta have some patience around this time, I suppose, but uh wow, it’s pretty ridiculous,” said Brian Walker, another passenger. “And there’s zero information being spread at all and so that’s kind of annoying.”
Monday night, the U.S. Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it’s looking into the situation to see if the cancellations were controllable.
The department also said it will look into whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.
On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan apologized to customers and staff in a video message.
He said Southwest has been hit harder by the recent winter storm than other airlines.
“We’re the largest airline in 23 of the top 25 travel markets — cities where large numbers of scheduled flights simultaneously froze as record cold brought challenges for all airlines,” Jordan said.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with union leaders and Jordan Tuesday afternoon.
They discussed expectations for Southwest Airlines to meet its obligations to passengers and workers and see the airline works to ensure a situation like this can never happen again.
To get back to normal, Jordan said the airline will be operating on a reduced flying schedule for the rest of the week — servicing about a third of its flights.
The earliest canceled flights can be rescheduled is Dec. 31.
“We always take care of our customers, and we will lean in and go above and beyond as they would expect us to,” he said.