AUSTIN (KXAN) — Passengers at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday struggled to rebook canceled flights and find missing luggage after winter storms in other parts of the country and bitterly cold temperatures impacted air travel nationwide during the Christmas holiday weekend.
CNBC reported Saturday that as many as 12,000 flights were canceled by U.S. airlines from Wednesday through Saturday. FlightAware, a flight tracking website, reported 165 Southwest flights were canceled at AUS Monday with 121 more flights canceled Tuesday.
Viewers have been telling us about their air travel issues through Report It, particularly with Southwest Airlines.
“I finally made it to [AUS] at 1:30a, after rebooking three times, to find the same lines of hundreds and hundreds of passengers waiting for Southwest booking assistance. Children were asleep on the concrete floor in Christmas pajamas,” one viewer wrote to KXAN in an email on Monday.
“Southwest Airlines Abandons Customers – Phone lines are dead and thousands are without their refund or luggage!” another viewer wrote.
KXAN’s Mercedez Hernandez spoke with some flyers in the Southwest Airlines line at AUS, some of whom had been waiting two-and-a-half hours to rebook flights.
We reached out to Southwest Airlines to learn how many Austin flights were canceled. An airline spokesperson replied:
“While I don’t have figures from specific airports where we operate, we are still experiencing disruptions across our network as a result of Winter Storm Elliott’s lingering effects on the totality of our operation. With the weather now considerably more favorable, we continue work to stabilize and improve our operation.”
Southwest Airlines continued on to say those with canceled flights can request a full refund or receive flight credit, which doesn’t expire.
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the DOT said on Twitter.
Additionally, information about lost baggage can be found online. The Southwest spokesperson said its customer service lines are currently “experiencing abnormally high call volumes.”
KXAN also reached out to AUS about flight cancelations. The airport responded with the following statement:
“After several days of nationwide disruptions to the air travel system due to severe winter weather, AUS’s airline partners are working towards regaining normal operations. Travelers with canceled or delayed flights or missing luggage need to coordinate directly with their airline. We appreciate our travelers’ patience as our airport partners work together to serve our customers during a challenging travel period for many.”
Travel plans ‘up in the air’ for Southwest passengers
Just after noon, Leanne Moss said she’d been at the airport since 6 a.m. — more than two-and-a-half hours of that time spent waiting in line to refigure travel plans to California.
She was in positive spirits now that she was close to the front of the line to rebook, but every hour of waiting was another spent away from Christmas plans.
“My family’s got it all prepared and, you know, all our presents. They’re ready to open when we land, which is gonna be a long time,” Moss said.
Other passengers were at the airport Monday for flights they had already rebooked after being canceled last week.
Cecilia Chavez said her flight was canceled last Thursday. Before her flight, she checked in a suitcase for her trip.
Now that her rebooked flight was canceled days later Monday, she was among many others searching through the sea of suitcases in the Southwest baggage claim.
“It’s been lost since Thursday. I think it’s just a great disappointment, and I think it’s really sad that this airline cannot keep up with the volume of customers they have in a fair and equitable way,” said Chavez.
Ebony Finger of St. Louis also had her flight from St. Louis to Austin canceled last week.
The suitcases she and her husband checked did not make it back into the airport — instead, the bags made the trip all the way to the Lone Star State.
Despite the setback, the couple was determined to make their Austin Christmas plan and drove 12 hours to Austin-Bergstrom to collect their lost luggage.
“The first thing we’re going to do is change clothes and shower. We’re tired,” said Finger.