An airline in the United States has been forced to cancel over 3000 flights, leaving travellers stranded across the country.
After days of paralysing winter weather across the United States on Christmas weekend, thousands of Southwest Airlines flights have been cancelled — stranding holiday travellers across the country.
Over 3,600 flights in and out of the US were cancelled, with an additional 6,120 flights delayed, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.
Southwest Airlines alone cancelled over two thirds of its scheduled flights — roughly 2,700 — as of 5pm. Monday (local time).
Southwest cancelled around 300 flights in the span of just a half-hour at one point.
“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest said in a statement.
“And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”
Thousands of travellers were left stranded across the country after Southwest cancelled most of its flights.
The airline, which is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the US, said it was working to alleviate the “wide-scale disruption” by moving around planes and crew members where they are most needed.
CNN reported that the airports that have been most affected by the cancellations are Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington and Dallas Love Field — where Southwest is based.
Southwest called the delays and cancellations “unacceptable.”
The airline told CNN that “those whose flights have been cancelled may request a full refund or receive a flight credit, which does not expire.”
Scott Keyes, the founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights, told the news outlet it could take up to a week before flights return to normal.
“When there’s more than 10,000 flight cancellations over the past week, it takes time for airlines to work through and re-accommodate the backlog of travellers,” he said in an email.
“While it will depend on the weather forecast (which looks promising for much of the country) and what number of travellers wind up cancelling their holiday plans, I’d expect that by next week, things will have largely returned to normal,” Keyes said.
The most affected airports are Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington, and Dallas Love Field — where Southwest is based.
On social media, customers griped about long lines to speak with representatives as well as problems with lost baggage and excessive wait times or busy signals on the airline’s customer service lines.
Many travellers are not even able to reach a customer service agent to make changes. Southwest told CNN it is “fully staffed to answer calls,” but the outlet was not able to get through to speak to an agent.
Travellers have complained of long lines and not being able to get through to customer service agents.
Keyes said travellers are having trouble rebooking their flights because there were already so few seats available in the popular holiday travel season between Christmas and New Year’s Day.