ATLANTA — An operational meltdown within Southwest Airlines has left tens of thousands of passengers and crew members stranded across the country. On Tuesday, for the second day in a row, the airline canceled thousands of flights.
On Monday, Southwest canceled 2,909 flights across the country. On Tuesday, that number was slightly lower with just under 2,700 flights canceled.
"I feel very bad for the passengers who had trusted us to get where they need to go and we completely let them down," explained one Southwest flight attendant, who asked to remain anonymous.
On Tuesday evening, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan issued a video statement in which he said in part, "I'm truly sorry."
He continued, "Clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so we never again face what's happening right now."
The operational breakdown was at first blamed on the historical winter storm that swept across the U.S. However, days after the storm has passed the airline itself called the cancellations "unacceptable."
The flight attendant 11Alive spoke to on Tuesday said, "It’s definitely bigger than the storm at this point. I would definitely agree it’s an executive-level failure."
Lyn Montgomery, who is the President of the airline’s flight attendants union, agreed this is a failure from the top.
"It's not the fault of Southwest Airlines flight attendants or employees. But it is very, very long-standing issues with technology because the technology systems are outdated and antiquated and cannot keep up with the pace of the growth of this operation," Montgomery said.
The cancellations have not only caused passengers to be stranded but also Southwest crew members.
"We’re being stranded, too. We’re being left without anyone to accommodate us. No hotels or anything. So a lot of us were sleeping in the airport. I personally wasn’t provided a hotel. And actually, my pilots paid out of pocket to get us a room or otherwise we would have been sleeping in the airport as well," the flight attendant added. "Some are still stuck in the airports there sleeping because you know a lot of us can’t afford to pay out of pocket for hotels. We don’t get paid enough already."
The cancellations are expected to continue into the New Year's Eve weekend. On Tuesday, the Commerce Committee Chair said in a tweet the committee will look into the airline's mass cancellations.
President Biden said the administration will be holding airlines accountable.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) said Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with union leaders and the CEO of Southwest Airlines. The USDOT provided a website, where passengers who have significant delays or cancellations can apply for meal and hotel vouchers.
Southwest Airlines has already primitively canceled 2,480 flights for Wednesday and 1,937 flights on Thursday as of Tuesday night.
"It’s definitely a breakdown in our operation. They won’t admit it. They just keep blaming it on the storm," the flight attendant explained.