Southwest Airlines Cancels Nearly 2,000 Weekend Flights, More Than 200 in Vegas

Posted on: October 10, 2021, 10:37h. 

Last updated on: October 11, 2021, 10:20h.

A long weekend was made even longer for thousands of people who booked flights with Southwest Airlines. The popular low-cost carrier canceled more than 1,900 flights on Saturday and Sunday, with 2,250 more delayed.

Southwest cancellations
Southwest Airlines “California One” airplane departs from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas in January 2018. Over the weekend, the low-price carrier had thousands of its flights canceled or delayed. That impacted hundreds of flights in and out of Las Vegas. (Image: Tomás Del Coro/

A post on the airline’s Twitter feed Saturday blamed air traffic control issues and bad weather for the scrapped flights. Not surprisingly, Southwest also said that its customer service wait times were “longer than usual,” as they tried to take care of impacted passengers.

However, on Sunday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration tweeted that there had not been any staffing shortages for its controllers reported since Friday. It also noted that some delays and cancellations took place on Friday as a result of “widespread severe weather, military training, & limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville en route center,” and some carriers were still struggling with “scheduling challenges” with planes, pilots, and attendants scattered.

Global air industry data tracker FlightAware reported that 808 Southwest flights were canceled Saturday, nearly a quarter of the carrier’s schedule, and another 1,187 flights (36 percent) experienced some type of delay. On Sunday, 1,112 flights (30 percent) never departed and 1,063 were delayed.

As of Sunday night, 33 more Southwest flights were canceled for Monday.

No other US carrier had more than 66 canceled flights on Saturday or 159 Sunday.

Hundreds of McCarran Flights Affected

Southwest ranks as the top airline by passenger volume at McCarran International Airport. In August, more than 1.4 million passengers flew into or departed from the airport near the Las Vegas Strip, and through the first eight months of the year, that total is nearly 8.6 million.

More than 200 Southwest flights over the weekend either into or out of McCarran were canceled, according to FlightAware. Nearly 260 experienced some type of delay.

Airport officials issued advisories for Southwest passengers flying out of McCarran to check the status of their flights before making their way to the airport. They recommended affected passengers to use the airline’s online rebooking options and warned those heading to the Southwest check-in to anticipate long delays.

Southwest’s troubled weekend comes about two months after Spirit Airlines endured what it called “a series of overlapping challenges” over a 10-day period. The mix of bad weather and airport staffing issues led to “severe crew dislocations” and the cancellation of 2,826 flights. That also had a significant impact on McCarran.

Pilots Union Says It’s Not to Blame for Southwest Snafu

The cancellations occurred after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), the labor union representing nearly 10,000 pilots who fly for the carrier, filed Friday for a temporary restraining order. The request was against the Dallas-based company’s plans to mandate all employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

The pilots’ union said the airline wants to insert new conditions unilaterally into the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.

The new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment, and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021,” the motion for the restraining order stated.

On Saturday, the union issued a statement that the delays and cancellations were not tied to any sort of walkout.

“Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world,” the statement said. “They will continue to be focused on their highest priority — safety. SWAPA Pilots are true professionals and will always maintain the highest level of responsibility to their crews, their passengers, and our airline.”

Union President Casey Murray said in a statement Sunday the issues the company cited for the cancellations were only a minor blip for other carriers. That’s because Southwest has faced numerous disruptions for months because of IT incidents.

Labor leaders will meet with Southwest’s Vice President of Flight Ops on Monday afternoon to discuss several issues, Murray added.

“I will have much more to say about this in a couple of days,” he said.