Southwest flight cancellations create chaos at Atlanta airport

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 7:02 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) -Lost bags, delayed flights, and missed moments shared with loved ones are just some of the woes at Atlanta’s airport as thousands of flights were canceled due to wintry weather across the U.S.

The federal government is now getting involved.

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A Department of Transportation spokesperson said, “The rate of cancellations and delays on Southwest Airlines is unacceptable and dramatically higher than other U.S. carriers. This afternoon, Secretary Buttigieg spoke with the CEO of Southwest Airlines and conveyed that he expects the airline to live up to the commitments it has made to passengers, including providing meal vouchers, refunds, and hotel accommodations for those experiencing significant delays or cancelations that came about as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions. Southwest, as all airlines, is also obligated to provide a cash refund for passengers whose flights were canceled and decided not to travel.”

“Shoot, (the wait) is a good hour at least,” said Jonathan Stephens, who is traveling to Seattle.

Lines were wrapped around baggage claim Tuesday and many travelers were forced to re-book flights.

“More time between now and our flight, I do not know,” said Jason Trout, who was on his way to Hartford, Connecticut.

One mother-daughter duo waited 50 minutes to check a bag with Southwest. A couple flying Frontier was in line for over an hour and missed their flight to Las Vegas.

“Frontier will have to get us there. We’re here and we’re on time,” said Trout.

There was a sea of luggage taking up baggage claim. Hundreds of bags made it to Atlanta but their owners did not.

“We don’t have our luggage, our clothes, our medicine, everything,” said Starlette Talley.

Talley was on a connecting flight from Atlanta to her home in Indianapolis

“They delayed our flight for six hours, then they canceled. They canceled until the 29th. Then this morning at 4 a.m. they sent us a text: We can’t get a flight out til who knows when,” said Talley.

She and her 8 family members have no idea where their bags are.

“We have a child with us. He’s five years old. He’s ready to go home. He has Christmas toys he wants to get to,” said Talley.

Instead, the Talleys are stranded.

“They gave us a room for one night and we have a five-day delay,” said Talley.

A man flying to Seattle was smiling despite the stress.

“You have a choice. Be negative or be positive. So positive it is,” said Stephens.

Most of the major airlines have issued travel advisories.

Delta is automatically rebooking folks whose flights are canceled. American Airlines, Southwest, and Spirit are letting customers re-book without change fees.

All airlines are encouraging customers to use their apps to try to self-rebook since customer service is seeing super high call volumes.


Wednesday morning report from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport