OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Countless Oklahomans were left stranded after Southwest Airlines canceled about 2,000 flights this past weekend. The airline is citing bad weather and air traffic control issues, but others are questioning if that’s the true reason.
Blackwell resident, Denise Hindman is one of the many people affected by the situation. She and her family travelled to Cabo for a wedding this past weekend.
After their flight was canceled, Southwest says they won’t be able to leave until Wednesday. Hindman and her family were initially stuck in the country with nowhere to stay.
“There [were] no rooms and I felt like we were homeless,” Hindman said. “I wanted to have a small breakdown…I want to cry.”
They were able to work out a deal with their hotel to stay there until Wednesday, but they’re now having to pay hundreds more per night that they didn’t budget for.
“I can’t stay here, we can’t afford to stay here,” she said. “I’m in a beautiful place but when you’re in a beautiful place you’ve got to be able to afford that beautiful place…we’re struggling to pay the bill.”
She’s now concerned they could be stuck there longer than Wednesday.
“There are absolutely no rooms anyplace here so it could get really scary,” she said. “I would really hate to even think of that.”
Hindman says flights from other carriers were just too expensive. And when she called Southwest, she was on hold for more than four hours and got no answer.
Taletha Henderson faced a similar situation. She and her family had to be in New York City for her uncle’s concert Monday. When her flight got canceled, they had to find other options.
“Trying to book a same day flight or the next day, you know how expensive that is [and] on top it’s New York City which is not cheap anyways,” she said. “That costs so much money — money I don’t have — but I have to be there.”
Other customers reached out to KFOR, one saying they wasted their paid time off to sit at home. Another said on Sunday that due to cancellations, their luggage was still in Atlanta after trip initially scheduled for Friday.
Some airlines, including Delta and United, have interline agreements with others. In situations where a flight gets canceled, passengers can get rebooked to the other airline.
Southwest doesn’t have such an agreement, but customers are entitled to a cash refund.
Southwest canceled more than 1,000 flights just on Sunday, citing over the weekend that bad weather and issues at air traffic control played a role. But according to a flight tracker Flight Aware, while Southwest canceled 28 percent of its Sunday flights, American Airlines only canceled 5 percent and United was less than 1 percent.
Nexstar’s News Nation anchor Leland Vittert recently tweeted a mass sickout at the Federal Aviation Administration in Jacksonville started it all, and that sickout was done to protest a recent federal vaccine mandate. However, Southwest has not confirmed the claim.
The union that represents Southwest pilots released a statement on Saturday and Sunday refuting the notion that vaccine mandate protests played a part, the latter saying, “I can say with certainty there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise.”
Instead, they blame it on an “operation that has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.”
That union did recently file a temporary restraining order to stop the company from carrying out that mandate last week.
KFOR reached out to Southwest Airlines and asked for all the things that, to their knowledge, caused the mass cancellations. They have not responded.