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Southwest Airline’s president is continuing to blame the air carrier’s mass cancellations on bad weather and air traffic constraints. 

Mike Van de Ven, also the company’s chief operating officer, said the logistical nightmare began to unravel last Friday when Southwest’s Florida operations were halted.

Friday’s troubles snowballed into Saturday’s operations, he said, and continued to cascade as employees scrambled to play catch up.

Irate passengers were forced to spend the long weekend sleeping on airport floors and waiting on hold for hours after the Dallas-based airline cancelled more than 2,300 flights.

‘Weather and air traffic constraints were not an issue beyond Friday, but it took us several days to re-set our network after the initial challenges,’ Van de Ven said in a statement.

A passenger at Orlando International Airport shared a picture of four children sleeping on the floor due to flight cancellations

A passenger at Orlando International Airport shared a picture of four children sleeping on the floor due to flight cancellations

A passenger at Orlando International Airport shared a picture of four children sleeping on the floor due to flight cancellations

Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 2,300 flights throughout the holiday weekend

Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 2,300 flights throughout the holiday weekend

Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 2,300 flights throughout the holiday weekend

The airline cited ‘distributive weather’ as another contributing factor. 

The executive’s reasoning for cancelling thousands of flights from October 8 through October 12 contradicts speculation that Southwest’s pilots participated in a weekend strike to boycott the company’s vaccine mandate.

‘Despite widespread rumors and speculation, the weekend challenges were not a result of unusual Southwest employee activity, and there simply is nothing in our data that indicates that particular reason,’ Van de Ven said.

Southwest’s ‘linear’ route system unique among large US carriers

The above image is a map showing Southwest destinations

The above image is a map showing Southwest destinations

The above image is a map showing Southwest destinations

Southwest is rare among the large airlines in that it uses the old-fashioned, point-to-point ‘linear’ route system that hauls people short distances with few connecting flights. 

Other large airlines use the ‘hub-and-spoke’ network in which companies rely on a central airport – or ‘hub’ – through which flights are routed. 

The ‘spokes’ are the routes that the planes take from the hub airport.

Most US airlines have at least one central airport that their flights go through in order to take passengers to select destinations, or ‘spoke’ routes. 

This allows the airline to cut costs by eliminating flights to non-popular destinations while ensuring flights to economically viable cities in their region are filled up.

After the federal government deregulated the airlines in 1978, most of the large carriers switched to a ‘hub-and-spoke’ network in order to cut down on half-empty flights between small markets that didn’t generate demand from travelers.

Delta Air Lines uses the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model. The Atlanta-based airline has its hub at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

If a passenger wants to fly from Charleston, South Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee, they would in all likelihood need to fly to Atlanta and then catch a connecting flight to Memphis.

That’s because there isn’t much demand for direct, nonstop Charleston-to-Memphis flights, so it would make more economic sense for the airline to operate its flights through its ‘hub’. 

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‘Our employees worked heroically in the midst of these adverse conditions and many came in on off days, or flew additional trips, to help the airline recover.’

Many passengers said they found it peculiar that other major air carriers weren’t brought down by the so-called weather and air traffic control problems.

Southwest is rare among large airlines in that it uses the old-fashioned, point-to-point ‘linear’ route system that takes people short distances with few connecting flights. The airline offers very few non-stop flights on longer routes. The system leaves crews and aircraft in many different areas, making it harder to recover from any delay.

‘I’m sure you are curious as to why Friday’s challenges impacted Southwest more than other airlines,’ Van de Ven said. ‘For starters, flying to and from Florida is a large portion of our schedule, and disruptions to Florida quickly spread throughout our network given our point-to-point flying.’

He said 40- to 50percent of Southwest’s plans travel to Florida daily, added that one-in-four crew assignments include at least one stop in The Sunshine State.

‘One of our largest crew bases is at Orlando International Airport, and that airport was shut to departing and arriving air traffic for approximately seven hours on Friday—preventing the flow of aircraft and crews into the network,’ Van de Ven said.

As the airline continues to do damage control, it’s sending out vouchers at varying amounts to affected passengers.

But some disgruntled passengers are refusing the certificates.

‘I do not want $150 voucher,’ said one Twitter user. ‘I want to be reimbursed full airfare and my non-refundable hotel expenses that went unused because of Southwest’s blunders and my unused park tickets for Magic Kingdom and Universal also non refundable.

‘$150 travel voucher is a joke.’

Added another: ‘Southwest is killing me… gave me vouchers but I just want my money back.’

Southwest’s president said the company’s focus is now on hiring more people.

Its goal is to hire more than 5,000 employees by the end of the year, said Van de Ven.

‘Additionally, we continue to evaluate potential network schedule changes to mitigate operational risks as we head into the holidays,’ he said.

‘There is certainly more work to be done as we approach November, and our teams are dedicated to doing that work to support a reliable operation.’ 

Southwest has been hampered by staffing shortages as demand for travel has ramped up more than anticipated following the lockdowns. 

Southwest president and COO Mike Van de Ven maintains the cancellations were caused by bad weather and traffic control constraints. He denied reports of a vaccine mandate strike

Southwest president and COO Mike Van de Ven maintains the cancellations were caused by bad weather and traffic control constraints. He denied reports of a vaccine mandate strike

Southwest president and COO Mike Van de Ven maintains the cancellations were caused by bad weather and traffic control constraints. He denied reports of a vaccine mandate strike

Van de Ven said it took the company days to recover from Friday's initial setback

Van de Ven said it took the company days to recover from Friday's initial setback

Van de Ven said it took the company days to recover from Friday’s initial setback

According to government statistics, the airline employed 62,000 workers pre-COVID – eight thousand more than the 54,000 employees who worked there as of August 2021.

The head of Southwest’s pilots union, Capt. Casey Murray, blamed the company’s management for the snafu and denied that pilots were calling out sick en masse to protest the vaccine mandate.

Murray told CBS News that the pilot sick rate was ‘right in line with what was occurring this summer.’

Bride’s family in Chicago misses daughter’s Nevada wedding because Southwest canceled their flights during weekend meltdown: Parents watch her go down the aisle on FaceTime

A Chicago bride says her entire family missed her Nevada weekend wedding because of mass Southwest Airlines cancellations that left her devastated parents watching the event on FaceTime.

Kimberli Romano, 34, and her husband-to-be Kyle Hlavaty, 37, flew to their wedding destination October 6 without issue, but things didn’t go so smoothly for relatives trailing behind on later flights.

Her Chicago-area parents and siblings were set to fly in for the Valley of Fire wedding on October 9, a day before the ceremony, but were among those affected by Southwest’s abrupt cancellation of more than 1,800 weekend flights.

‘So, I call my parents immediately and told them double-check everything because we just got notification that the flight was canceled,’ Romani told CNN.

‘And, of course, it turns out that it was, and I was freaking out. I was so emotional’

She said she managed to book her parents another flight from Milwaukee the morning of the October 10 wedding, but it also was cancelled.

Aside from her husband’s mom and aunt – who flew to Las Vegas earlier in the week – no family was able to witness the special occasion in person.

Romano said her parents watched the ceremony via FaceTime.

‘Service was spotty because we were up in the mountains and everything, but my mom said that she was able to see most of it,” Romano said. “She couldn’t hear anything but she could see most of it.’

Southwest Airlines on Monday issued ‘a tremendous apology’ to its customers and said the weather was to blame for the cancellation of almost 2,000 flights during the weekend.

The Dallas-based airline refuted claims that employees striking in protest of a vaccine mandate caused staff shortages that forced the mass cancellations.

The nixed flights prevented Romano’s family from attending the special occasion, although a few of her bridesmaids who flew in earlier did attend.

However, her father wasn’t able to walk her down the aisle, and her mom couldn’t help her get ready for her big day.

‘It’s unbearable for a lot of people,’ Romano told CNN. ‘And it’s very, very disappointing. I’ve defended Southwest for so long and been a loyal customer of theirs for so long, and the way we were treated at the airport – they were so rude and disrespectful and had absolutely no remorse for anything. It’s very upsetting.’

Back in Illinois, Romano’s parents and older sisters were scrambling to make the wedding. They spent hours researching other flight options, but couldn’t find one that would get them to the 1 p.m. wedding on time..

Although the wedding was in Las Vegas, it wasn’t an elopement.

It was a planned ceremony with a lot of thought and money put into it, the bride’s sister Renee Romano said.

Romano was the first daughter in the family to get married, and her parents were devastated to miss it, her sister said.

‘They’re really torn up about it. They’re still very upset,’ Renee Romano told DailyMail.com. ‘I think the (sadness) has turned into anger, because it’s just unbelievable that this could happen – and that Southwest allowed it to happen, and had no backup plan in case something like this would have happened.’

Now, Renee Romano said she’s trying to get a refund from Southwest, which offered a flight credit to use on a future trip.

‘I don’t want to use it for future flight,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to fly with them again after all this craziness, not knowing if this is ever going to happen again. I want my money back, so we’re going to try and work on that and see what happens.’

Southwest told Dailymail.com on Thursday that they reached out to the bride to offer their ‘sincere apologies’

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Source: dailymail

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