Holidays Bring Bad News for Southwest Passengers

Massive delays and cancellations are taking place at airports across the country.

While a snowy Christmas may sound great in songs and for those already in a warm cabin, the weather extremes all hitting different parts of the U.S. at the same time right now are set to put a serious curb on holiday travel plans.

In fact, the “get home by any means” experience that was forever memorialized in the 1987 movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is already becoming a lot of people’s reality this weekend. Record-low temperatures have left over one million in the Northeast without power while separate snowstorms have also hit the West Coast and Texas.

As of 4 p.m. on Friday, over 7,500 lights within, into or out of the U.S. had been cancelled due to adverse weather. A further 6,500 have been delayed and may be canceled still — the numbers climb higher every time one refreshes the page. 

Cancelations, Delays And General Holiday Travel Chaos

Data from flight-tracking site FlightAware identified Alaska Airlines  (ALK) – Get Free Report, SkyWest  (SKYW) – Get Free Report and Southwest  (LUV) – Get Free Report as the airlines with the highest rates of cancellations. The latter topped the list by canceling 22% of its flights.

In terms of airports, just under 50% of the flights coming into out of Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport were canceled entirely as the West Coast deals with a massive snowstorm. 

While Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s Laguardia were also identified as the worst due to the high number of flights canceled, the much smaller Buffalo Niagara International Airport shut down entirely “due to hazardous weather conditions.”  The northern New York city is known for its extreme winter weather.

All this comes at a time when the airline industry is already severely understaffed as it works to rehire those who were laid off during the pandemic. 

While flights are often the first to get canceled for safety reasons, those traveling by rail or road will also face challenges related to the weather — Amtrak has been canceling various train routes in different parts of the country while fallen trees and power lines prompted the closure of a major interstate highway in Minnesota and South Dakota. 

What You Can Do If Your Flight Has Been Canceled

For those traveling and hit with an unexpected delay or cancelation, the natural reaction is to panic and try to hop on the next available flight before anyone else does. 

Advice offered by different travel agencies ranges from trying to call an airline’s international hotline (to escape the long bottleneck on domestic ones amid a cancellations) to checking flight statuses several times an hour to find out before one’s arrival at the airport.

But in the event of extreme weather, one needs to expect problems and be ready to hop onto unexpected solutions — an airline may ask for volunteers to get on a last-minute flight to a nearby city or offer a hotel stay for those who can wait a day to get to their destination. 

Whether immediately or after one’s travel problems, it’s also always important to try getting some sort of compensation for a cancellation even if you doesn’t have travel insurance or the cancelation is classified as outside of the airline’s control.

“They might say, ‘Well this is a weather event so we’re not offering anything,'” Kathleen Bangs, a spokeswoman for FlightAware, told the New York Times. “It [still] never hurts to ask in a polite way.”

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