NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan apologized to airline customers and employees via a video message on Tuesday evening during which he said he’s “optimistic” flights will be back on track by next week.
The video apology is little consolation to travelers across the country, including at Norfolk International Airport, who are missing out on holiday celebrations this week.
“I did a lot of crying,” said Antoinette Spinner, who was trying to get to Norfolk on Christmas Day. Instead, her flights were rerouted, delayed and eventually canceled.
“I started out on Christmas Day in St. Louis, was supposed to fly through Chicago and connect to a flight to Norfolk, but the delays were going to cause me to miss the connection to Norfolk. So I rebooked, went to Atlanta, and was supposed to fly to Richmond. But got to Atlanta, the flight was delayed many hours, then canceled in the middle of the night.”
She tells 10 On Your Side she spent about 26 hours in the Atlanta airport.
“There were lots of people in the same situation. People were sprawled out all over, trying to sleep,” she said.
She eventually got to Norfolk the day after Christmas, but has spent most of her short stay waiting at the Southwest Airline ticket counter, to figure out how to get home.
“It’s been crazy,” she said.
Another traveler we spoke with was expecting his two teenage daughters to fly into Norfolk on Christmas Day, and then spend New Year’s with them.
“They canceled flights without telling us,” he said.
“They won’t let [my daughters] fly by themselves even into another city where we have family, or anything like that, so maybe we can travel 6-8 hours to get there.”
Like many others trying to spend time with loved ones this week, he tells us while Southwest may be able to give his money back, they can’t turn back the clock.
“It just makes the small time we had together lost, without a way to recoup it. Time is the one thing we can’t back,” he said.
The airline blamed a “complex network” and winter weather for the travel troubles.
“Our plan for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule and reposition our people and planes. We’re making headway and we’re optimistic to be back on track before next week,” Jordan said.
Customers won’t be the only ones waiting to see what happens.
“We’re going to be watching closely to see this airline follow through on its commitment to make things right,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“It shouldn’t take an enforcement action from our department in order to get people taken care of and get them their money back. But if that’s what it takes, of course we’re ready to do it,” he said.