After infamous week, Southwest Airlines announces normal service Friday

Southwest Airlines announced on its website Thursday that it would “resume normal operations with minimal disruption” on Friday.

The Dallas-based carrier has canceled most of its flights for nearly a week following the Christmas storm that swept the country and upended Southwest’s ability to keep planes and crews departing on time.

The airline said it would continue operating a third of its schedule through Thursday, adding further frustration to thousands of passengers at Orlando International Airport.

At least 120 flights to and from Orlando had been canceled as of Thursday, according to FlightAware, a widely followed online airline tracker.

The most affected Orlando flights were to and from the following cities: Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; New Orleans; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Kansas City, Missouri; and Birmingham, AL.

Across its network, Southwest canceled 2,364 flights on Thursday, about the same as every day for the past week. The airline’s Boeing 737s can carry up to 175 passengers.

“We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made in aligning our flight crew, their schedules and our fleet,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement. A holiday weekend full of important connections, and we’re eager to get back to normal.”

By Friday, Southwest expects to ground 39 flights in its network, with just three grounded in Orlando: flights from Columbus, Indianapolis and New York’s Long Island MacArthur Airport, according to FlightAware.

The airline has been investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the anger of millions of passengers jumped from their expected seats. Southwest Airlines’ lost luggage is reportedly piling up at airports across the country.

Orlando International Airport leadership did not respond to interview requests this week asking them to assess the impact on the airport and its passengers, as well as their response to the Southwest collapse. Friday and Monday are expected to be the busiest days of the Orlando airport holiday.

Southwest is advertising a website for refunds, reimbursements and luggage assistance: Southwest.com/traveldisruption

kspear@orlandosentinel.com