Southwest Having Operational Meltdown, No End In Sight


It might be starting to thaw out in some parts of the country, but it’s Southwest that’s truly having a meltdown.

A live look at Southwest’s computer systems

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or, more likely, enjoying the festivities and ignoring the news – airlines had some operational issues in the couple of days leading up to Christmas due to winter storm Elliott. There wasn’t really anything airlines could do about that, although it did inevitably have a big impact on holiday plans for much of the country due to the snowball effect on flights in more ways than one.

However, what’s happened to Southwest since then is on another level. While other airlines have been getting back to something approaching normal (albeit not 100%) following the cascading delays and cancellations, Southwest really has melted down. On Christmas Day nearly all of their flight schedules had something go wrong, with more than 40% being cancelled and almost 50% being delayed.

Things got even worse the following day from a cancellation perspective. I’m from the UK and the day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day and it sure felt like Southwest was punching customers in the face yesterday as they cancelled more than 70% of flights and delayed 16% of them. It doesn’t seem like things will be improving much in the coming days, so if you have upcoming flights with Southwest and don’t have any backup plans, it’s time to make them.

That’s somewhat ironic because it’s historically been Southwest that people have used for backup flights due to their generous cancellation policy. Due to COVID-induced changes though, booking backup flights with other airlines is much easier nowadays due to them having more generous cancellation policies than pre-COVID.

If possible, it would be worth having more than one backup option. Depending on your route, it could also be worth booking a one-way car rental as that could potentially still save you time depending on how long you’d otherwise be trapped in your current destination.

Good luck to all of you affected!

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I have done the MDW>BNA just like 200 tickets in the last 15 years. In winter u need to Book the First Flt out (Jet maybe There) or the last flt that will work for u.Points are Perfect but 15 years ago I paid cash for 4 flts each way..Like the Scouts Be Prepared IF u need to get there..ALOHA


My daughter and her 2 kid’s flight was cancelled yesterday afternoon. No flights til Saturday, but I was able to book them on Delta. I sent Southwest an email last night stating I wanted the original miles I had used for their flights restored to my account and three $300 vouchers for the flights I had bought on Delta. I just heard back from them with an emailing stating they had refunded the miles I used for the three cancelled flights. I looked and they are back in my account. They also said they would be issuing me 3 separate vouchers for $300 each and that I would receive these in another email in a few days. A very quick response. I was surprised.


We have a flight to Las Vegas tomorrow. Expecting it to be cancelled. If it isn’t then we’ll cancel our flight in the morning. Would rather southwest cancel it so I can get the money back rather than a travel credit for next time.


I have 2 flights on WN Jan 04 and another flight on Jan 07. Wondering if I should make a backup or not. I would hope it would be back to normal-ish by then, but who knows.

Steve L.

I’ve got Jan 6th flights…was wondering the same thing.


I have a flight on Jan 15 to make it to medical appt in DEN. Considering a back up.

Steve L.

You have the benefit of time on your side. I would imagine it should be sorted out by then.


BOOK 2 !! my flts to MDW>BNA are Medical only so use points then cancel. My GI is my Buddy by Being there always just the last 15 years..ALOHA


This brief exchange convinced me to book United flights for Jan 04 as a backup. I have some leftover COVID-cancellation travel credit that needs to be used by the end of 2023 anyway, so tying it up for a couple weeks as a backup is not a big deal. It is ~2x the cost and leaves a few hours earlier so I may have to make an educated guess if I should take it.

If it is still messy by the morning of Jan 06, I may just switch to a Spirit direct flight for Jan 07. Nothing else leaves late enough on the 7th without being a red-eye.

Melissa Chapman

Huh? A private facebook group is why SW is so f’ed up?

Melissa Chapman

Shoot I forgot private. It was a good explanation of system issue


They are allowing free changes. My son is out here in California from Florida and I was able to bump his flight another 2 weeks for free. He was supposed to fly home on the 6th.


A free isn’t of much use if you have to pay for hotel rooms/car rentals for another week or two. Lots of people are trying to get back home and return to work. Fortunately not me but certainly quite a few.


Right, my son and family had to book on United from Denver to Milwaukee, so he could get back to work.


He said it’s a lot worse than the news is even letting on.