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Southwest Airlines cancels more than 1,000 flights over weekend

The airline blamed the woes on air traffic control issues and weather.

DALLAS — Editor's note: The above video about Southwest Airlines and vaccinations is from Oct. 4, 2021.

Updated at 4:38 p.m. with more information from Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend, blaming the woes on air traffic control issues and weather. The airline canceled more than 1,000 flights, or 28% of its schedule as of 1 p.m. CT Sunday, according to flight tracker FlightAware. The cancellations mark the highest rate by far of the major U.S. airlines. 

Next in line are Allegiant and Spirit, both of which had canceled 5% and 4% of its flights respectively, according to the flight tracker. American Airlines canceled 2% of its flights.

Dallas Love Field ranked third in the amount of canceled departures and third in the amount of canceled arrivals Sunday, according to the latest numbers from FlightAware. So far Sunday, there have been 2,021 total delays within, into, or out of the United States, according to FlightAware.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a tweet Sunday that there have been no FAA air traffic staffing shortages reported since Friday.

"No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Flight delays & cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday PM due to widespread severe weather, military training, & limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville en route center. Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place."

An October 7 article in Newsweek attributes the problems at Southwest and American Airlines to employee protests against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have implemented a November 24 deadline for all of their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said Sunday that "Pilots are focused on the safety of our crews, passengers, and overcoming operational challenges, not unofficial job actions." 

A "job action" could be a strike, walkout or a sickout.

Neither pilots nor any other workgroup can stage a "job action" without being in violation of their contract. In the aviation industry, it is not uncommon for employees to call in sick instead.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement Sunday the weather and air traffic control issues were in Florida starting Friday night:

"We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening. We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our Customers.

"With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.

"We’re working diligently to accommodate our Customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience. We’re offering Customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel. We know the frustration flight cancellations are creating for our Customers and Employees and we apologize, and we again thank everyone for patience as we work first to be safe, and second to be as quick as possible in solving disrupted plans."

This is a developing story. Download our free WFAA app to stay up-to-date on all news stories in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.