MINNEAPOLIS – The holiday winter storm has left some airlines scrambling to get back on track, particularly Southwest Airlines.
As of Tuesday, more than 80% of flights from Southwest are cancelled to and from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and thousands of others across the country. It led to long wait times on customer service lines and long lines inside airports.
In a statement, the airline apologized and said it's working to "urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet."
The federal government is taking notice. Monday night, the Department of Transportation tweeted that it's "concerned by Southwest's unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service," and it will "examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan."
Then, on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the administration is "working to ensure airlines are held accountable."
Biden says anyone affected by the cancellations can go to USDOT's dashboard to see if they're entitled to compensation.
"We didn't get any text or any message telling us it was cancelled before we came," Houston resident Teresa Kalina said.
She and her husband Larry's flight back home was among the thousands of cancelled Southwest flights Monday. With stranded passengers, crews and baggage nationwide, Thrifty Traveler editor Kyle Potter says it's an airline meltdown, one of the biggest he's ever seen.
"Things are going horribly, horribly wrong," Potter said.
He suggests anyone flying Southwest this week books a back-up flight on another airline. If Southwest cancels, travelers are entitled to a full refund.
"Even if it was a storm, the federal government guarantees you the right to cancel your entire trip and get your money back if the airline cancels your flight," Potter said.
In the four-day span of Sunday through Wednesday, Potter said that Southwest is on track to cancel over 9,500 flights. That's more cancellations for the airline than it recorded in a six-month period of time in 2019.
Jacksonville State basketball player Masengo Mutanda is trying to make it to practice on Tuesday, but her second flight was cancelled, so she re-booked on Spirit Airlines last minute.
"I was on hold for six hours. I literally fell asleep, woke up and I was still on hold," Mutanda said. "It has been a long day, you know. I'm just trying to get to where I'm getting to and just get some sleep before practice."
Meanwhile, Teresa and Larry will have to stay in Minnesota until Saturday. They said it was the soonest Southwest was able to re-book them.
"We'll have to figure out some kind of vacation plan for the rest of the week," Larry Kalina said.
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