Many air travelers who were trying to make it home for Christmas experienced a nightmare, especially those trying to fly on Southwest Airlines.
Passengers who counted on Southwest suffered another wave of canceled flights Wednesday with more coming on Thursday.
"I'm absolutely furious at Southwest Airlines," said Mike, a Southwest passenger.
Mike and his wife Hannah tried for 7 days to make it to Seattle, Washington from Denver, Colorado to celebrate Christmas with their son at his home.
But travel possibilities at the Denver airport on Dec. 21 looked bleak.
"They don't care, so part of my rage is, I'll probably never fly Southwest again," Mike said.
To make matters worse, Southwest canceled the couple's flight, but their bags stayed with Southwest after they transferred to another airline.
"They said our bags were in Denver and then they said our bags were in Seattle," Hannah said.
While other airlines recovered from ferocious winter storms that hit large swaths of the country over the weekend, Southwest has canceled more than 8,000 flights since Monday.
"We were on the plane for about 3 hours before they canceled our flight and deplaned us and our next available flight is Dec. 30th," said Southwest passenger Lilly Lopez.
Based in Dallas, Texas, the airline's schedule was messed up by a combination of factors, including an out-of-date crew scheduling system and a network that lets cancellations in one region quickly cascade through the rest of the country.
Those issues aren't new for Southwest. They had a similar failure in October of 2021.
Southwest Airlines apologized and said they were doing everything they can to return to regular operations.
"Our plan over the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule and reposition our people and planes and we're making headway," said Southwest CEO Bob Jordan.
But U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the meltdown unacceptable.
"We are passed the point where they can say this is a weather-driven issue. What this indicates is a system failure," Buttigieg said.
The federal government is now investigating what happened at Southwest, which has also frustrated its own flight and ground crews.
Jordan said it could be next week before the flight schedule returns to normal.
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