Southwest Airlines was working frantically on Wednesday to restore normalcy to its decimated flight schedule in the five days leading up to Friday, as the San Diego International Airport descended into a state of controlled chaos.
The airline stated its intention to resume normal operations by Friday, with only a few minor disruptions, in an update that was posted on its website first thing on Thursday morning. The announcement stated that the airline would still be operating one-third of its schedule on Thursday.
Statement Released By The Airline
“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign crew, their schedules, and our fleet.” Following yet another holiday weekend that was packed with meaningful interactions for our esteemed Customers and Employees, we are eager to get back to our regular schedule.
In an effort to serve our Customers and crews and to reunite our Customers, we have Employees from various parts of the Company continuing to assist with an all-hands, around-the-clock effort. In the meantime, the focus of the efforts of other teams is on mending relationships with customers who have been inconvenienced.
The flight-tracking website FlightAware reports that there will be 162 cancelled flights in San Diego on Thursday, which is equivalent to more than 70 percent of the city’s regularly scheduled flights. Although there is currently no data available for flights coming into or leaving San Diego on Friday, FlightAware reports that Southwest has only cancelled 39 flights across the country.
Those who have trips planned for the upcoming holiday weekend will be relieved to hear that, but the passengers who were stuck at the San Diego airport on Wednesday will have to wait a little longer before they can celebrate their good fortune. They formed lines and stood there. They were sitting on the ground. They looked at their phones while simultaneously pressing their fingers together.
Following the announcement that a flight was going to be made to Kansas City, one passenger yelled out, “We’re in!” After gathering their two young children, he and his wife took their three large suitcases and headed in the direction of the ticket counter.
If everything had gone according to plan, they would already have checked the bags in. This was not the norm in any way. Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel thousands of flights across the country as a result of a severe winter storm that highlighted weaknesses in the airline’s operational capacity. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttiegieg referred to this incident as a “meltdown.”
Now that the problem had been identified, Southwest had put in place a step-by-step system that was designed to eliminate one of the biggest headaches caused by the problem: marooned luggage.
Here is how the system worked
Come forward when you hear the call so that you can obtain your baggage tags. You will need to check your bags after another call. Please wait. The next step is to wait until you are instructed to board. Always maintain a close proximity between the passengers and their belongings, as well as the passengers themselves.
Several hundred bags were a mute testimony to the efficacy of that strategy, and they were stacked nearby in the space that had formerly served as seating for a food court.
Some of the bags belonged to travellers who were still on their way to San Diego from another location and had not yet arrived at their destination. Some of them belonged to travellers who had been here days earlier, but their stuff hadn’t caught up with them yet, so they hadn’t been able to claim them.
Each bag had a tale to tell
In hers, Alexa Moncada kept an espresso machine that cost four hundred dollars, which she intended to give to her parents on Christmas morning. On December 21, she took a flight from Denver International Airport to San Diego International Airport, and while she was there, she checked her bag. The flight was initially rescheduled for the next day, and then it was delayed again again and again as the hours passed.
Instead of flying with Southwest, Moncada, a 19-year-old aspiring golf course architect, chose to fly with United. However, when she attempted to retrieve her bag from Southwest, she was informed that it had already been transported to San Diego. Her parents brought her up in Los Angeles on Friday after she arrived in the city on a flight provided by United.
The arrivals board displays flights that have been cancelled by Southwest Airlines.
At San Diego International Airport on Wednesday, the arrivals board reveals that several planes operated by Southwest Airlines have been cancelled.
She travelled to this airport with no suitcase in tow. She returned the next Saturday and was informed that it had been moved to Las Vegas. They instructed us to return on Tuesday. She did, but it made no difference.
After then, on Wednesday morning, there was success. When the grey duffel was found in the food court, it caused her to leap up and down excitedly. At that time, her father was there with her, and by that point, he was already familiar with the espresso machine. It did not appear to bother Moncada that her surprise had been revealed to her.
She said, “I can’t believe it’s finally here!” “I’m not going to even bother wrapping it now.”
According to the website FlightAware, as of the late afternoon on Wednesday, Southwest has cancelled 168 flights in San Diego, which represented 75 percent of the airline’s arriving and departing flights for the day. At the national level, the number was 2,509, which is equivalent to 61 percent of all Southwest flights.
The majority (97%) of cancelled flights on Wednesday were operated by Southwest.
We know even our deepest apologies — to our Customers, to our Employees, and to anyone affected through this inconvenience — only go so far,” Southwest said in an update posted on Thursday.
Southwest.com/traveldisruption is a dedicated area on the airline’s website enabling passengers to obtain refunds and reimbursements for missed meals, hotel stays, and alternative transportation. In addition, it’s meant to facilitate the reuniting of bags with their owners.
According to Scott LaRocco, the airport’s senior terminal operations coordinator, the issues caused by the breach in the timetable have been manageable for the janitors, concessionaires, information workers, and others in Terminal 1.
That’s because, he explained, the holidays are often hectic, and bad weather might arise in different regions of the country and cause havoc with flying plans.
In the event of a surprise, “we know what types of things to expect,” LaRocco added.
Many of those visiting San Diego for the holidays have family here, so they have been able to avoid the airport and wait for their rescheduled flights while visiting loved ones.
A significant winter storm devastated several parts of the United States over the holidays, and while other major carriers were recuperating, Southwest felt the only way it could return to normal was to lower its operating schedule by one-third systemwide.
Southwest passengers arriving in or leaving from San Diego this week should expect the same thing: dozens of cancelled flights. By late Wednesday afternoon, 161 flights scheduled for Thursday had been cancelled, according to the FlightAware tracker. Friday’s numbers were not readily available.
The holiday flight cancellations left thousands of travellers stranded in San Diego or at San Diego International Airport.
Storm systems swept the country, causing flight cancellations, delays, and reroutes.
An already tumultuous situation at San Diego International Airport was made much more so when bags overflowed into the baggage claim area and even a food court, forcing passengers to forage through the piles of luggage in search of their own.
In addition to the weather, Cosgrove blamed a lack of pilots and staff for the delays and cancellations. According to regulations set by the FAA, pilots can only spend so much time in the cockpit.