Travelers heading home from Panama City affected by Southwest flight cancelations and delays

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 7:23 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Southwest Airlines had more than a thousand flight cancelations for the holiday weekend and thousands of flight delays.

This trend continuing into Monday. According to Southwest canceled 363 flights, 1,458 flights were delayed.

All Southwest flights at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport were either canceled or delayed Monday as well.

This caused frustrations for travelers trying to get home after traveling to Panama City Beach for vacation.

“We had no instructions of what to do just they’re canceled,” Marian Ofczarcak, Beachgoer from Austin, Texas said. “You didn’t know how to retrieve your reservation and rebook or when it was going to be available we had no clue about anything.”

Ofczarcak said that she had her flight changed multiple times on Monday. She was trying to fly home to Texas after spending the weekend with family at the beach.

“The time has changed three times so it is back to her original time but I do not know if that means it is still delayed and it is going to get a new time there is no other information,” Ofczarcak said.

That lack of information is nothing new. Since travelers have gotten back to the skies after the pandemic, various airlines have had sudden cancellations since summer.

ECP officials say these flight cancellations with Southwest have nothing to do with the local airport.

“Obviously we will see people here in between flights that we wouldn’t normally see,” Richard McConnell, ECP Deputy Executive Director said. “They will be at the ticket counters trying to reschedule hopefully a lot of the airlines have handled the accommodations via the phone.”

Also, according to airport officials, it is up to the airlines to provide accommodations to passengers that have their flights canceled.

Ofczarcak said she was told her flight was delayed multiple times due to weather.

Southwest Airlines released a statement saying air traffic control issues and disruptive weather resulted in the cancellations.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration also released a statement, saying there have been no significant air traffic staffing shortages reported since Friday.

The FAA also released a statement on Monday stating, “To be clear: None of the information from Southwest, its pilot’s union, or the FAA indicates that this weekend’s cancellations were related to vaccine mandates.”

The Southwest Airlines Pilot Union, said in a statement on Sunday that the claims that cancellations or delays were due to a sickout are false.

The full statement says, ”SWA has made the news again this weekend due to another operational meltdown. There are false claims of job actions by Southwest Pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news. I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise. Under the RLA, our Union is forbidden from taking job action to resolve labor disputes under these circumstances. SWAPA has not authorized, and will not condone, any job action.

SWA has claimed that the immediate causes of this weekend’s meltdown were staffing at Jacksonville Center and weather in the southeast U.S., but what was a minor temporary event for other carriers devastated Southwest Airlines because our operation has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure. Our operation and our frontline employees have endured continuous and unending disruptions since the first time our airline made headlines in early June due to widespread IT failures. Our Pilots are tired and frustrated because our operation is running on empty due to a lack of support from the Company.

SWAPA has grave concerns about the direction Southwest Airlines has taken in putting profits ahead of people. Enough is enough. We need leadership, not apologies. We need accountability for those responsible for this months-long debacle. And we need concrete actions taken now to protect our airline, our employees, and our customers. Your SWAPA leadership has a meeting with VP of Flight Ops Bob Waltz scheduled for tomorrow afternoon to discuss this along with the many other concerns our Pilots have.

I will have much more to say about this in a couple of days. In the meantime, as always, take care of yourself, your crews, and your passengers. You are the best and final line of defense.”

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