The collapse of Southwest Airlines’ operations once again filled South Florida’s main airport with frustrated passengers on Wednesday, as the embattled airline resumed most of its flight cancellations.
Of the 2,798 industry-wide flights canceled at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Southwest Airlines operated 2,508 Among them, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.
In South Florida, the Dallas-based carrier canceled 79 of 92 flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, 30 of 35 flights at Miami International Airport, and 30 of 35 flights at Palm Beach International Airport. International airports canceled 10 of 12 flights.
As the number of cancellations increased on Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Other airlines are being urged to lower fares as travelers look for alternative flights after their travel was disrupted by Southwest.
Buttigieg said on his Twitter account: “With Southwest flights canceled and travelers looking to rebook, other airlines should cap fares on these routes to help people who need to get home.” — and they all should. “
Buttigieg spoke with Southwest CEO Bob Jordan about the thousands of cancellations over the past week. The airline attributed its woes to a combination of factors, including delays caused by the storm, overly aggressive flight schedules and outdated technology.
The secretary said he expects Southwest to offer refunds and reimbursement for expenses when passengers don’t ask for it.
CNN reported that United Airlines and American Airlines are capping prices on travel to and from specific cities. While neither airline explicitly mentioned Southwest, American said the caps were designed to help Southwest customers get home.
Passengers aren’t the only ones working long hours at airports.
On Wednesday, the leader of the airline’s unionized ground workers blamed management for allegedly poor planning and extended working hours in bad weather.
“When you’re dealing with sub-zero temperatures, strong winds and ice storms, you can’t expect to schedule your planes as if every day is sunny, moderately warm and breezy,” said Randy Barnes, head of the Transportation Workers Union. Barnes) Union Local 555, said in an email.
“The human element also has to be a consideration,” he said. “Ground crews need more support. Many of us are forced to work 16 or 18 hour days this holiday season. Our members work hard and they do their job, but many are sick and some have experienced frostbite over the past week It’s unreasonable for workers to be outside for extended periods of time in inclement weather. People need to be able to cycle in and out of the cold. The airline needs to do more to protect its ground crew.”
In a statement on the website, CEO Jordan said he was “proud and respectful of the efforts of Southwest employees in every way” and “apologized to them every day.”
“The tools we use to recover from outages work for us 99% of the time; but clearly we need to double down on our existing plans and upgrade our systems for these edge cases so we never face the what’s happening,” he said.
Staff Writer David Lyons can be reached at dvlyons@SunSentinel.com