Travelers across the country are losing their luggage and patience as they put holiday festivities on hold because of flight cancellations. The issue is also one impacting those in Southwest Florida.
Southwest Florida International Airport’s flight board is full of cancellations, most of which are from Southwest Airlines.
This is a days-long issue that is expected to continue through New Year’s weekend. One of the biggest problems is people are having trouble getting rebooked before the weekend.
The travelers waiting in the long lines at RSW are tired of waiting, remaking travel plans, and trying to find a place to stay until Southwest Airlines can get them out of Southwest Florida.
On RSW’s flight information boards, “Southwest” is now synonymous with canceled.
The Rodriguez family is trying to get home to Houston, but Southwest has canceled their flights four times since Thursday.
“I’m walking away disappointed because every time I fly, I fly with Southwest. I haven’t had any issues but they really just say dropped the ball. And I know they’re working as hard as they can, but then I look over and see all the other airlines flying out,” said Sabrie Rodriguez.
On Tuesday, Southwest’s canceled 52 flights in and out of RSW. Nationwide, that number is nearly 2,500. Flight Aware estimates Southwest will cancel another 42 flights in and out of RSW on Wednesday.
“We’ve been here trying to go back to Houston. We’re flying from here to Orlando. They canceled our flight as soon as we got here. We’ve been in line for about an hour and a half. They said they can’t refund us right now, that we’re gonna have to call customer service,” said Rodriguez.
Customer service lines are jammed with passengers looking for refunds, vouchers, and other ways to get where they’re going.
As for the other airlines, things seem to be running smoothly, with no lines or cancelations.
“I feel like they’re doing as much as they can. It’s just unfortunate because I just wanted to get home at this point,” Rodriguez said.
The Rodriguez family has given up on Southwest. They are renting a car and driving 17 hours home to Houston.
A Southwest spokesperson said yes, it’s true that the airline won’t be able to reschedule most passengers until New Year’s Eve at the earliest.
WINK News asked passengers suddenly stuck in line what the airline was telling them.
“We had a plane, we had pilot, first officer, we had no flight attendants. The gate agent said that there are flight attendants at a local hotel, but they couldn’t get them here to the airport. So now we’re canceled and waiting to be rebooked somewhere,” said Nora Brathol, visiting from Milwaukee.
“I’m trying to get my daughter here. She was supposed to come Christmas Eve. And her flight was canceled because they didn’t have a pilot,” said Candice Portis, who was trying to get her daughter to Southwest Florida.
Other passengers said their flights were canceled because flight attendants couldn’t get to the airport or their systems were down.
In a statement, Southwest blamed the worldwide problems on the weather but did not explain why it cannot get most people rebooked until New Year’s Eve at the earliest.