Delays, cancellations continue for Southwest Airlines at Denver airport, days after freezing weather passes

Southwest Airlines line DIA Denver International Airport
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Travelers queue up to check in at the Southwest Airlines counter at Denver International Airport after a winter storm swept over the country, which created chaos for people trying to reach their destinations before the Christmas holiday, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, in Denver. As warmer weather rolled in, the problems with Southwest flights continued.

Updated 7:22 pm

The winter weather has moved out for now, but travel in and out of Denver International Airport remains snarled. The bulk of the delays centers around Southwest Airlines.

As of 7:20 pm, reported 468 canceled flights at DIA Monday, with 502 delayed flights. Of those, Southwest had 418 canceled flights in and out of the airport.

Southwest had already cancelled more than 2400 flights nationwide set for Tuesday, according to FlightAware, representing 60 percent of the airline's scheduled flights. That includes 283 into or out of Denver. It has cancelled 2000 flights set for Wednesday nationwide. Denver is the top airport for cancellations on both days.

In an email, Southwest said the airline is “still experiencing disruptions across our network” due to the winter storm on the “totality of our operation.” The airline has a big presence in areas hard hit by the pre-Christmas winter storm, such as Denver and Chicago. 

“With the weather now considerably more favorable, we continue to work to stabilize and improve our operation,” the airline wrote.

Social media sites were full of videos of long lines at DIA’s Southwest counters, people complaining of canceled flights or lost luggage, and luggage piling up in the Southwest baggage claim area.

The airline’s customer service lines continue to have high call volumes that have resulted in busy signals for many. Hold times averaged more than two hours, with some as high as four hours. The airline asked that people who are not traveling in the next 72 hours wait to call.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the airline was hit with several problems resulting from the storm in Denver, including planes that froze overnight and rolling blackouts that made it harder to refuel ground equipment, and from a shortfall of ramp workers in Denver. CPR News’ calls to the unions representing the airline’s workforce were not immediately returned Monday.

The airline confirmed it issued an “operational emergency” notice at DIA, which is “routine” to put in place procedures that require extra scrutiny for employees who call in sick, like requiring a doctor’s note.

In the company’s last news update on December 24, the airline said that “it remains a very dynamic situation, we don't have specific numbers to share on flight disruptions, but the storms have forced thousands of cancellations throughout our network.”

The winter storm that walloped most of the country started causing problems for the airline last week, disrupting nearly 12,000 scheduled flights from Wednesday through Friday.

By law in the U.S., all airline passengers are entitled to refunds if the airline cancels a flight, regardless of the type of fare someone paid. Southwest Airlines said travelers with canceled flights may request a full refund or receive a flight credit that does not expire.