Southwest Airlines apologizes for recent cancellations of thousands of flights

Southwest Airlines said its "deeply sorry" for canceling thousands of flights this past weekend.

Southwest said earlier this week that air traffic control operations and weather led to widespread cancelations over the weekend.

But in a statement released Thursday, the company is now explaining why isolated issues in Florida impacted their flights all over more than those of other airlines.

The president of the airline, Mike Van de Ven, said in a statement that the issue started last Friday with weather and air traffic constraints stalling Florida operations for hours.

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Van de Ven said that caused crews to not be in position to operate the airline's Saturday schedule, and it snowballed from there.

Nearly 2,000 flights were canceled over the weekend and many more were delayed, leaving some travelers stranded for days.

Travel analyst Rick Seaney says Van De Ven’s explanation is legitimate.

"They do have a significant chunk of their traffic that flows through there. They have several airports that they have a ton of traffic through," he said.

Southwest's breakdown says 40% to 50% of its aircraft fly through Florida on any given day.

The FAA sent FOX 4 a statement Thursday re-enforcing its previous response to Southwest’s weather claims, saying in part "No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Planes were taking off and landing at a reduced rate in Orlando due to weather. The average delay was around an hour."

Earlier this week, the FAA also pointed out that all other airlines were able to recover from that Orlando ground stop.

Van de Ven says Friday’s delays forced the airline to spend the next several days to "reset" its network.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association is standing by comments earlier this week, calling the airline’s IT system "antiquated."

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But Seaney says any airline delaying technological updates during an unprecedented pandemic isn’t surprising.

"Do they have the most modern systems? They’ve just gone two years with hardly any revenue comparatively, so they haven’t spent a lot of money on technology," he said.

Van de Ven addressed rumors of an employee walkout over vaccines, saying nothing that happened over the weekend had to do with that.