Travelers to and from Buffalo among those impacted by Southwest Airlines cancellations

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Five times over the last several days, Phil Ribaudo was scheduled to return home to Western New York from Tampa, Fla. Five times, he says, his Southwest Airlines flight was canceled.

“There was no communication,” Ribaudo said. “There was only this, ‘Oh, there’s a problem with the tower in Jacksonville.’ That was all the excuse we were getting.”

“Our luggage got to Buffalo, but we didn’t,” he added.

The airline canceled 363 more flights Monday, according to FlightAware, one day after canceling 1,124 of them on Sunday. Issues have persisted dating back to Friday, according to the airline.

“On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday,” Southwest said in an email, while noting that the issue “cascaded” through the rest of the weekend into Monday.

Southwest said it extends a “tremendous apology” to customers and employees who have been impacted.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said delays and cancellations occurred Friday because of weather, military training, and “limited staffing” in part of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center. “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday,” the FAA statement said.

It was not immediately clear what led to staffing issues at Jacksonville’s air traffic control on Friday.

Southwest Airlines travel delays: Breaking down the flight disruptions

Ribaudo ended up booking a flight on another airline, and finally flew into the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Monday. He estimates he had to spend an additional $2,000 in tickets, hotel accommodations, food, and clothing over the weekend.

“Luckily, we’re fortunate enough to be able to do that. It wasn’t really a hardship for us,” he said. “But there are families in that airport with kids who are just laying around doing nothing. They’re just stuck.”

Hannah Swann and Payson Townsend have the opposite problem. They’re trying to get out of Buffalo and return home to Texas. They say they have had multiple flights canceled, including one Monday morning.

“When I went to book the first time they canceled (our flight), every time I checked for one it said ‘unavailable’. So I had to keep reloading,” Swann said. “Six of them disappeared. (Monday), I couldn’t even get on that same website. It wouldn’t work whatsoever.”

Southwest noted they experienced “less disruptions” Monday, and hope to return to a full schedule as soon as possible. But Swann and Townsend have also booked a flight home on another airline. They’re expected to leave Tuesday.

“I think my yard is a little overgrown at this point,” Townsend said. “I’m afraid to go home and get the machete out and tend to the weeds.”

Swann said the airline will be sending them a $150 voucher.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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