Southwest Airlines Attempts to Explain Cancellation Chaos Amid Speculation

Southwest Airlines said Friday that the "operational disruption" that the company faced last Friday was behind the company's recent flood of flight cancelations.

Southwest canceled thousands of flights over the weekend and shut down about 30 percent of its flight schedule on Sunday.

In a message published on the airline's website on Thursday, President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said that the disruption was "initially created by weather and air traffic constraints that stalled our Florida operations for many hours."

"As a result, our aircraft and Crews were not in their pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday," Van de Ven wrote.

Southwest Explains Flight Cancelations
Southwest Airlines said Thursday that "operational disruption" that the company faced last Friday was behind the company's recent flood of flight cancelations. Above, travelers wait to check in at the Southwest Airlines ticketing counter at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on October 11, 2021. Kevin Dietsch

"Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday," he added.

Van de Ven also said that despite "widespread rumors and speculation," the issues the airline faced over the weekend "were not a result of unusual Southwest Employee activity."

The company and the union representing Southwest pilots previously shot down rumors that the cancellations were caused by staff members not showing up to work to protest the airline's vaccine mandate.

Several conservative figures had suggested that the cancelations had to do with the vaccine mandate.

I stand with the flight attendants, ground crew and pilots who value their bodily autonomy!

CANCEL MY FLIGHTS -- CONTINUE THE FIGHT! https://t.co/Cuz8P0QNIF

— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) October 10, 2021

"I stand with the flight attendants, ground crew and pilots who value their bodily autonomy!" radio host Jesse Kelly tweeted on Sunday. "CANCEL MY FLIGHTS -- CONTINUE THE FIGHT!"

"Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work!" Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted on Sunday, linking to a story about the Southwest cancelations. "Suddenly, we're short on pilots & air traffic controllers," he added.

In his Thursday message, Van de Ven said that "Friday's challenges " in Florida impacted Southwest more than other airlines in part because "flying to and from Florida is a large portion of our schedule and disruptions to Florida quickly spread throughout our network given our point-to-point flying."

He noted that roughly 40-50 percent of Southwest's planes fly through Florida each day, and that about one-quarter of the company's crew assignments include at least one Florida city. Van de Ven pointed out that Orlando International Airport, where one of the airline's largest "Crew Bases" is located, was closed off to air traffic for about seven hours on Friday.

"Again, I fully realize that any attempt at an explanation falls short of our ultimate goal of delivering you to your destination on time with our typical Southwest hospitality," Van de Ven wrote.

"You expect and deserve better Customer Service from us, and we are committed to making necessary adjustments to deliver on that expectation," he added.