Holiday Travel Experiences a Mix of Delight and Challenges, Southwest Airlines Faces Repeated Issues

by Ryan Lee
Holiday Travel Disruptions

This year’s holiday travel generally brought pleasant experiences for flyers, with Christmas day marking the conclusion of a largely smooth weekend. However, passengers of Southwest Airlines encountered repeated disturbances.

The festive period saw a noticeable improvement in travel compared to the previous year. By late Monday afternoon, only 157 flights were canceled and 2,111 experienced delays within, to, or from the U.S., as reported by FlightAware.

These improvements came amidst efforts to avoid the extensive delays and cancellations that tainted 2022’s travel scene, notably the Southwest Airlines crisis that left over 2 million travelers stranded.

Yet, Southwest Airlines faced recurrent problems over this weekend. By Monday, FlightAware indicated that while only 2% of the airline’s flights were canceled, 16% faced delays, totaling 693 flights. Over the weekend, Southwest canceled 426 flights and delayed 2,689, as per FlightAware statistics.

A spokesperson for Southwest attributed these disruptions to dense fog in Chicago over the weekend, hindering plane landings and leading to potential additional cancellations on Monday, with hopes of a full recovery by Tuesday.

The AAA forecasted that from Saturday through New Year’s Day, about 115 million individuals in the U.S. would travel at least 50 miles from home by air or car, marking a 2% increase from the previous year.

The Transportation Security Administration screened over 2.6 million individuals on Thursday, with weekend data still pending release.

The Thanksgiving period witnessed a record-breaking number of travelers at U.S. airports, surpassing pre-COVID figures from 2019, with TSA screening a record 2.9 million people on Sunday, November 26.

Compared to last year, milder weather conditions have generally facilitated timely air travel schedules.

However, road travel faced hazardous conditions in parts of the U.S. on Christmas Day due to snow and ice accumulation in the Midwest and Great Plains. Blizzard conditions affected most of Nebraska and South Dakota, while parts of eastern North and South Dakota dealt with ice storms, as reported by the National Weather Service.

INRIX, a transportation data provider, anticipated the busiest road travel days to be Saturday, December 23, and the following Thursday, December 28.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Holiday Travel Disruptions

Was holiday travel smoother this year compared to last year?

Yes, this year’s holiday travel was generally smoother compared to last year, with fewer flight cancellations and delays. Christmas marked the end of a relatively untroubled weekend for travelers.

What issues did Southwest Airlines face during the holiday season?

Southwest Airlines experienced repeated disruptions, including flight cancellations and delays. Dense fog in Chicago was a major cause of these issues, affecting the airline’s schedule over the weekend.

How many people traveled during the holiday season?

According to AAA, approximately 115 million people in the U.S. were expected to travel at least 50 miles from home by air or car between Saturday and New Year’s Day, a 2% increase from last year.

Were there any record-breaking travel figures during the Thanksgiving period?

Yes, during Thanksgiving, U.S. airports saw a record number of travelers, surpassing pre-COVID numbers from 2019. TSA screened a record 2.9 million people on Sunday, November 26.

How did weather conditions affect holiday travel?

While air travel benefited from milder weather, road conditions were hazardous in parts of the U.S. on Christmas Day, with snow and ice in the Midwest and Great Plains leading to blizzard conditions in Nebraska and South Dakota.

More about Holiday Travel Disruptions

  • FlightAware Cancellation and Delay Data
  • Southwest Airlines Official Statement
  • AAA Holiday Travel Forecast
  • TSA Thanksgiving Travel Records
  • National Weather Service Blizzard and Ice Storm Reports
  • INRIX Road Travel Predictions

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MikeTraveler99 December 26, 2023 - 4:41 am

gotta say, this year’s travel was way better, less stress at the airport, though Southwest still needs to sort out their issues!

JennyH December 26, 2023 - 4:57 am

interesting read, but really, how does Southwest keep having these probs year after year? it’s not just the fog, right?

TravelBug87 December 26, 2023 - 8:51 am

always interesting to see these travel stats, especially the TSA numbers over Thanksgiving. airports must’ve been crazy busy!

SarahFlyHigh December 26, 2023 - 1:15 pm

Good overview, but I think there’s more to the story with Southwest. Weather’s just one part of it.

Chris_ontheroad December 26, 2023 - 6:41 pm

Last year was a nightmare for me flying, glad to see things improved, but man, those road conditions sound scary, stay safe everyone


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