October 10. Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,800 flights this weekend, disrupting the travel plans of thousands of customers and stranding flight crews — the airline blamed the meltdown on a combination of bad weather, air traffic control issues and its own shortage of available staff.
“I know this is incredibly difficult for all of you, and our customers are not happy,” Alan Kasher executive vice president of daily flight operations told staff in a note on Sunday, which was seen by CNBC.
The airline said initial problems on bad weather and an “FAA-imposed air traffic management program” were to blame. Other airlines canceled relatively few flights. Southwest did not comment on the disparity.
“No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday,” the FAA said. “Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules.”
Staffing shortages fueled hundreds of cancellations and delays at Southwest over the summer. The airline trimmed its schedule after the summer to avoid further disruptions. Other airlines also faced a shortage of workers after encouraging thousands to take leave or buyouts at the height of the pandemic, only for travel demand to return faster than expected this summer.
The airline has struggled to hire new employees in the tight labor market. Incoming CEO Bob Jordan told CNBC last month that the carrier is prepared to cut flights over spring break season if it doesn’t have enough staff to support the operation.