Southwest passengers scramble for flights following weekend mass cancelations across U.S., Tampa

It's been a frustrating weekend for air travelers who booked flights with Tampa International Airport's largest carrier, Southwest Airlines. Many were waking up Monday morning in places they weren't expecting to be.

Over the weekend, nearly 2,000 flights were canceled nationwide, including some at Tampa International Airport where there were long lines at the Southwest counter. The airline is TPA's biggest carrier, leaving many people trying to get where they needed to be over the weekend.

As of Monday afternoon, there were nearly 400 Southwest cancelations nationwide, along with more than 600 delays. That includes 19 cancelations at TPA. That number is down from the weekend when the airport saw about 150 canceled Southwest flights between Friday and Sunday.

The airline has blamed the issues on "disruptive weather" and air traffic control issues, although the FAA has said the air traffic control problems were cleared up Friday.

The situation fueled speculation that the delays were connected to a lawsuit filed by the Southwest pilots association on Friday after the airline announced it will require pilots to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Airline representatives denied any connection. Either way, a lot of travelers are incredibly frustrated.

"That sounds like baloney to me," said BJ Romero, who woke up Sunday expecting to fly out of TPA on a Southwest flight. "The weather is fine in all connecting areas, there’s no bad weather. There’s got to be something behind the scenes they’re not telling us."

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Passengers told FOX13 that some local Southwest employees had a slightly different explanation, telling travelers at TPA that some cancellations had to do with staff shortages. FOX 13 reached out to Southwest, specifically asking them about staff shortages, but they responded with the same statement they issued on Saturday:

"No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have 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. 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."

Later Monday, Southwest issued another statement, which cited "weather and other external constraints" as the reasons for delays and cancellations. 

The full statement is below.

"Southwest Airlines extends a tremendous apology to our Customers and Employees for the flight cancellations and delays which occurred over the weekend and on Monday.

On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday.

Southwest Teams have been working diligently to restore stability to the network, and we are experiencing less disruptions on Monday. We hope to restore our full schedule as soon as possible. As a note, the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations.

To every Customer that experienced a cancellation or delay, Southwest offers our sincerest regret regarding disrupted travel plans, and we look forward to a future opportunity to demonstrate our safe, reliable, friendly, and legendary Southwest Hospitality – something that Customers should always expect from Southwest Airlines.

If Customers require assistance from Southwest, they can utilize one of the airline’s self-service options for convenience or Contact Us via one of the methods listed on"

For those traveling out of TPA, you can check your flight status here.