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Southwest won't rebook passengers until Saturday or later

After canceling more than 70% of its flights, Southwest Airlines made an announcement at Hobby Airport on Monday night.

HOUSTON — Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel most of its flights Monday, leaving passengers stranded and in many cases, separated from their luggage.

Monday night, an announcement was made over the Hobby Airport public address system, saying that people who were stranded would not be able to rebook on Southwest Airlines until Saturday, Dec. 31 or after. The message also said they expect more cancellations in the coming days and that they'd be providing hotels for stranded customers.

KHOU 11's Grace White, who was at Hobby Airport when the announcement was made at around 6:30 p.m., said it was made twice, followed by a third announcement saying they are now no longer rebooking anyone. They were asking passengers to go downstairs to get onto buses bound for a hotel. 

Southwest said they would provide vouchers. Here's how to contact Southwest Airlines for options.

This is the transcript of what was said to passengers on the PA system.

"Our next available seats for rebooking are for the 31st and beyond. Unfortunately, we do not have available seats for customers before that date.

"If you have flexible travel plans or you're local to the Houston area, we ask that you return home. If you would like to purchase a hotel room or you need to rent a car, we ask that you keep your receipts. Southwest Airlines will reimburse those costs. You can go to Southwest.com in the contact us section or you can call 1-800-435-9792.

"As you are probably aware, our phone times are extremely long, however, we do expect to return to a more normal state in the upcoming days. Once again, our rebooking options are very limited at this time. We are asking customers to find an alternative transportation if you can. If you do need a hotel room during this disruption, Southwest Airlines will be providing hotels.

"Once again, thank you so much for your ongoing patience with us as we work to get everybody rebooked and reaccommodated as quickly and safely as possible."

What led to the Southwest Airlines cancellations?

We also heard from management at Southwest Airlines Monday night at Hobby Airport. In a news conference, Jay McVay with Southwest Airlines said that the problem wasn’t with personnel. He said what started as delays from the storm turned into cancellations, and once those started piling up, crews and planes were out of place and not in the cities they needed to be.

“There were no staffing challenges for Southwest Airlines whatsoever,” McVay said. “When it came down to this, it was just the sheer size of the storm as it grew west to east."

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