Southwests delays travel

Holiday cancellations cause snowball effect


Southwest celebrated its 51st birthday on June 12, 2022. The company struggled to deal with he impact of canceled flights and mixed up schedules over the holidays.

Hanna Asmerom

Over the holiday break, major airline, Southwest, canceled over 16,700 domestic flights in the months of November and December. 

Junior Haley Chu experienced the effects of this meltdown firsthand on her family trip to Washington DC over winter break.

When departing from Dallas Love Field, Chu’s flight was canceled and she was provided no alternate flight. 

“The only way we got to DC was because of a pilot that volunteered to fly us there,” Chu said. 

On Dec. 26, Chu was on her way back from her vacation and arrived at the airport to find out that Southwest had canceled all flights leaving from that airport for the next few days.

“At that moment we knew that we could either wait three days for the next available flight, or drive there, which is what we ended up doing,” Chu said. 

Chu and her family then embarked on a 20-hour drive back to Dallas without breaks because of their short window of time. 

This system breakdown was caused by the company’s inability to recover after cold temperatures and keep track of available pilots. Amplified by the lack of crucial and up-to-date infrastructure, the backup snowballed into an almost $825 million mixup. Many frequent users predicted that this would happen soon, citing the fragility of the company’s system as a whole, according to the New York Times.

Transcending Southwest’s customers, the meltdown and rescheduled flights also etched into other airlines’ processes. Junior Stella Wrubel encountered these effects on her way to Boston flying with American Airlines. 

On the way there, what was supposed to be a 2 p.m. flight ended up getting delayed to around 5:30pm. Although that delay was dramatic, what the real problem was, according to Wrubel, was that they were supposed to catch a connection in Charlotte, North Carolina soon after their flight landed. Because of the three-hour delay, they ended up missing their connection and having to drive from Charlotte to Boston.

Like these two students, thousands of travelers resorted to driving to their destination once their flights got canceled. This further perpetuated the travel backup onto rental car companies. There were lines lasting up to 3-4 hours for a rental.