HOUSTON — The travel nightmare for thousands of Southwest Airlines passengers continues. Most of the airline's flights over the next couple of days have been canceled, leaving passengers stranded and, in many cases, separated from their luggage.
According to FlightAware.com, as of Wednesday morning, Southwest Airlines had already canceled 2,507 of its flights, or 62%. It also had 150 delays nationwide.
Hobby has been one of many airports feeling the impacts of the Southwest Airlines travel troubles. On Monday, hundreds stood in line to get flights rebooked, only to be told hours later that they will not be able to rebook flights until the weekend.
The City of Houston has been working with Hobby Airport and Southwest Airlines to get travelers to hotels until they can make other arrangements to get to their destinations safely. Officials said 260 passengers were bussed to Houston hotels Monday.
What led to the cancellations?
Southwest Airlines says weather is to blame
We heard from management at Southwest Airlines Monday night at Hobby Airport. In a news conference, Jay McVay with Southwest Airlines said that the problem wasn’t with personnel. He said what started as delays from the storm turned into cancellations, and once those started piling up, crews and planes were out of place and not in the cities they needed to be.
You can watch his entire news conference below.
SOUTHWEST STATEMENT: 'We recognize falling short'
The president of the flight attendant's union says there's more
We also talked to the head of the flight attendant union, who says the weather may have started the issues, but that's not all that's to blame.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in my 27 years of working as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines," said Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556, the union representing 18,000 Southwest Airlines flight attendants.
"Obviously, the impact of Winter Storm Elliott created the issues, but the Southwest Airlines systems cannot recover because we have outdated technology," she said.
Montgomery says the technology she says flight attendants use to reschedule flights relies on a phone system that gets overloaded.
“You simply can’t make enough phone calls, you can’t make thousands of phone calls at once," she said.
Southwest won't rebook flights until December 31
Monday night, an announcement was made over the Hobby Airport public address system, saying that people who were stranded would not be able to rebook on Southwest Airlines until Saturday, Dec. 31 or after. The message also said they expect more cancellations in the coming days and that they'd be providing hotels for stranded customers.
KHOU 11's Grace White, who was at Hobby Airport when the announcement was made at around 6:30 p.m., said it was made twice, followed by a third announcement saying they are now no longer rebooking anyone. They were asking passengers to go downstairs to get onto buses bound for a hotel.
So if you're scheduled to fly on Southwest this week, what can you do?
If your flight is canceled, Southwest Airlines says in you can request a full refund or flight credit.
As for a hotel or hot meal, they are not required to provide that, but you should ask.
“The worst they can say is no,” said Shayla Northcutt with Northcutt Travel Agency. “If you ask and you say, ‘Hey, if I am scheduled on this next flight, then I need food vouchers to stay here in the airport, can you compensate some of those?’”
As for your luggage, under Department of Transportation regulations, airlines are required to compensate passengers if their bags are damaged, delayed or lost. But you’ll need to file a claim with the airline.
Southwest says it will do everything they need to make this right, including offering hotels, ride assistance, and rental cars. They say keep your receipts and reach out to them and they will make sure you are taken care of.
Emergency Operations Center activated at Hobby
Bags have been separated from the people who own them as travelers have had to make changes to plans because of the cancellations. Family members of travelers have been coming to Hobby Airport to retrieve bags belonging to those who are stranded.
Houston airport officials told us Monday afternoon that as Southwest works to help passengers get their bags and passengers on planes, the airport's emergency operations center is being activated.
Airport officials also say Houston police, airport operations personnel and customer service reps are helping to manage the crowd at the terminal.
Over at Intercontinental Airport, personnel is also helping to assist with crowds, but the emergency operations center is not being activated.
Department of Transportation looking into Southwest issues
The Department of Transportation said it will be examining Southwest's travel disruption to see if the airline is complying with its customer service plan. You can read more about SWA's customer service plan here.