As an ice storm gripped the southern U.S., more than 1,110 flights on Monday were canceled. Southwest Airlines, currently under investigation by the Department of Transportation for mass disruption over the holidays, accounted for nearly half of those cancellations.
According to flight tracking site FlightAware, airlines scrapped 1,130 flights within, into, or out of the United States yesterday, January 30. The cancellations were concentrated in the South, where 40 million people, from eastern New Mexico to West Virginia, are under winter weather alerts.
At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), 18% of departures were canceled and 52% delayed, while at neighboring Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL), nearly one in four flights were grounded. Other heavily affected hubs included Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Denver (DEN), and Las Vegas’s Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
Southwest grounded the most flights: 489, 12% of its schedule. It also delayed 1,065 flights, nearly 27% of those scheduled.
The low-cost carrier issued a winter waiver running until Wednesday and covering travel through 12 cities: Austin, Dallas, Amarillo (AMA), Nashville (BNA), Lubbock (LBB), Little Rock (LTT), Midland (MAF), Memphis (MEM), Oklahoma City (OKC), San Antonio (SAN), Louisville (SDF), and Tulsa (TUL). The waiver entitles passengers traveling to, from, or through those airports to rebook within 14 days or fly stand-by without paying additional fees.
Southwest didn’t comment on the latest cancellations, which came just a month after its services collapsed after a December blizzard. The airline drew ire from both passengers and crew after it canceled 16,700 flights during the holiday period, misplaced luggage, and left callers waiting on hold for hours to arrange alternative transportation and accommodation.
The airline admitted it could face up to $825 million in compensation costs and lost revenue from the Christmas chaos and has also drawn scrutiny from regulators. The Department of Transportation last week announced that it will investigate whether Southwest knowingly scheduled more flights during the holiday period than it could realistically operate, which would violate federal law against “unfair and deceptive practices” in commerce.
Additionally, the Senate Commerce Committee said it would hold hearings on the debacle ahead of the airline’s reauthorization by the FAA, which must be completed by October.
Other airlines also grounded flights on Monday, including American Airlines, with 206 cancellations, and regional carrier SkyWest, with 162.
With Winter Storm Mara set to lash the region through Wednesday, the airline turbulence has continued today. As of 11 a.m. EST, 1,240 flights to, from, or within the U.S. had already been canceled, including 421 from American Airlines and 394 from Southwest.
Travelers who seek alternative ways home by road will also see disruption. Icy roads have been shut across Texas, and traffic is slow as emergency services respond to accidents. By Tuesday, EMS crews in Dallas had responded to 142 traffic accidents related to the weather, and police in Austin said one person had been killed in a 10-car pile-up.
“In addition to potentially hazardous travel conditions, this amount of ice will lead to tree damage and power outages across the hardest-hit regions,” the National Weather Service warned.