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Southwest Airlines cancellations disrupt holiday weekend travel

A Southwest Airlines flight taxis to a gate

A Southwest Airlines flight taxis to a gate at Long Island MacArthur Airport on March 25, 2021. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Some Long Islanders flying Southwest Airlines this holiday weekend might have plans disrupted, as the carrier canceled more than 1,000 flights, citing bad weather, short staffing and air traffic control woes.

As of Sunday at 5 p.m., the airline had canceled more than 1,000 flights, or 28% of its scheduled departures, according to flight tracker FlightAware. Caroline Smith, a spokesperson for the Town of Islip, said in a statement that Southwest operations at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma "were affected proportionately with the Airline’s system."

She advised passengers to contact Southwest directly with flight inquiries. According to MacArthur Airport's site, several flights were delayed Sunday.

In an emailed statement, Southwest said it experienced weather challenges in its Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend.

Those were compounded, the airline said, by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for them beginning Friday evening.

"We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our Customers," the statement said. "We’re working diligently to accommodate our customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience."

The carrier is offering customers self-service rebooking options on Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel.

The Federal Aviation Administration said no air traffic staffing shortages had been reported since Friday.

"Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread severe weather, military training, and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center," an FAA spokesperson said via email. "Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules."

With The Associated Press

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