PORTLAND, Maine — Four days after a massive winter storm swept across the country, air travel is still being impacted with carriers like Southwest canceling thousands of flights.
Southwest Airlines canceled all flights in and out of the Portland International Jetport Tuesday, leaving some passengers stranded after the holidays. The flights were all headed to and from Baltimore, where travelers were expecting to make connecting flights.
“It’s just unacceptable,” Siobhan Kilgallen, who was waiting in line to check in when the cancellations were announced, said. “Everyone knows that during the holidays there’s going to be some delays, but just outright cancellations is not OK.”
According to the Associated Press, Southwest canceled more than 70 percent of its flights Monday, more than 60 percent on Tuesday and warned that it would operate just over a third of its usual schedule in the days ahead.
On the other side, American Airlines, United, Delta and JetBlue suffered cancellation rates of less than 2 percent by Tuesday.”It’s stressful for everybody,” Andrew Boyer, who was trying to get home to Chicago, said. “They just said there’s no flight until January, at least for Southwest.”
The ripple effect of cancellations have left travelers trying to find other ways home. Tuesday, ticket agents at the Jetport said they wouldn’t be able to rebook passengers for a future flight until after the new year.
“We’re trying to fly on United or American Airlines, but if we can’t, then the earliest we can leave here is the second of January,” Kilgallen said. “I feel bad for the employees.”
Southwest has blamed the impacts of last week’s storm for much of the cancelation woes, saying it left flight crews and planes out of place.
“That has kind of moved on to create some challenges with our flight crews, being stuck in locations not where they need to be along with the aircraft,” Southwest Airlines spokesperson Jay McVay said. “At this point, we’re working to accommodate our customers as best we can and offer the most options that we can.”
However, passengers in Portland were left with few options. The ticket counter made announcements saying the airline’s refund system was down and could only offer vouchers at the moment.
One woman who was heading to Baltimore chose to drive rather than rebooking.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will be looking into Southwest’s handling of the situation, a step those left stranded Tuesday hope will get some results.
“Obviously, they haven’t fixed their systems in years,” Kilgallen said. “Their CEO and their Chief Operating Officer, people need to be fired. They need to bring in new leadership.”
If your flight was canceled by Southwest Airlines, you are able to get a refund. If you choose not to rebook for a future flight, you can fill out this form on Southwest’s website to request a refund.
The Department of Transportation requires all airlines to offer refunds when a flight is canceled for any reason. You can find out more on the department’s dashboard for travelers.