Problems mount for Southwest Airlines travelers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
Dec 27, 2022, 10:43 AM | Updated: 1:21 pm
PHOENIX — Many travelers were stranded at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Tuesday following a slew of flight cancellations and delays, mostly from Southwest Airlines.
As of 1 p.m., 188 Southwest flights in and out of Sky Harbor were canceled and 73 were delayed, according to tracking site FlightAware. The total for all carriers at the Phoenix airport was 197 cancellations and 169 delays.
While travelers waited to check in or planned for their departure at Sky Harbor on Tuesday morning, a handful of Southwest kiosks were down, flight boards were experiencing delays with updating and luggage piled up near the baggage claim area.
On Monday, Southwest cancelled 249 flights to or from Sky Harbor as the carrier cut back operations while a massive winter storm wreaked havoc across much of the country.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) sent a letter to Southwest Airlines on Tuesday seeking answers.
“We are now multiple days removed from the winter storm that your company continues to blame for canceled flights to Phoenix from cities like Tampa, Houston, San Diego, and El Paso. Stranded constituents are telling my office that they cannot get any answers,” the letter says.
Southwest canceled more than 2,500 flights nationwide Tuesday.
“As we continue the work to recover our operation, we have made the decision to continue operating a reduced schedule by flying roughly one-third of our schedule for the next several days,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement on Monday.
“And we’re working to reach customers whose travel plans will change to offer specific information and available option.”
Southwest customers with travel plans through Jan. 2 can rebook in the original class of service or travel standby without paying additional fees, the airline said.
Refunds can also be requested online for an unused ticket to the original form of payment.
Travelers are also entitled to alternative options, such as traveling through another airline’s flight, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The department also said it would look into whether Southwest could have done anything about the cancellations and whether the airline was complying with its customer service plan.
USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.
— TransportationGov (@USDOT) December 27, 2022
Southwest spokesman Jay McVay said at a press conference in Houston that cancellations snowballed as storm systems moved across the country, leaving flight crews and planes out of place.
“So we’ve been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and get back to normal safely, which is our number one priority as quickly as we could,” he said. “And that’s exactly how we ended up where we are today.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and The Associated Press contributed to this story.