What began as a crisis for Southwest Airlines in the midst of a stifling winter storm turned into a crippling one Monday night when the budget carrier apparently canceled all outbound flights from Los Angeles-area airports through Dec. 31.
Thousands of flights have been canceled nationwide.
The airline’s website lists all flights departing from Los Angeles Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport, Ontario International Airport, and John Wayne Airport as “unavailable” through New Year’s Eve.
Travelers at LAX told KTLA they were told the same thing.
Similar issues have been reported in San Diego International Airport.
It was not clear if flights from Southern California were affected as well.
Tirso Rayo was at LAX Monday night, trying to get back home to Boise, Idaho. Their flight has been cancelled, and rescheduling seems unlikely.
“They don’t care,” said Rayo. “It’s a bad business, and I will never travel with these guys again.”
Others have chosen to take the long way home by renting cars and carpooling, but the available rentals are increasing rapidly and the prices of any remaining vehicles are increasing.
The problems plaguing Southwest come after one of the busiest travel weekends of the year and in the middle of the winter holiday travel peak period.
Long lines both in person and over the phone left travelers frustrated, exhausted, and helpless without much information.
An internal memo allegedly leaked by an employee on Monday blamed some of the operational crisis on employees calling in sick.
Southwest did not comment on the authenticity of the document.
Southwest has apologized for the cancellations, which it called “unacceptable.” The company posted its latest update on Twitter at around 8 a.m. on Monday.
On Monday afternoon, the US Department of Transportation said it would investigate the rate of cancellations and delays to determine if they could have been avoided and whether Southwest was “compliance with its customer service plan.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he was watching the situation closely and said we’ll have more information on Tuesday.
“Pop culture junkie. Tv aficionado. Alcohol ninja. Total beer geek. Professional twitter maven.”