Southwest and Other Airlines Cancel Thousands of Flights

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At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, thousands of stranded and confused passengers massed throughout the terminal in lines that snaked in all directions.

One line, with no end in sight, stretched to the Southwest ticket counter, where perhaps 10 or 15 agents staffed counters as customers queued up to learn their options — if there were any.

Hundreds were clustered on the level below, grouped around hundreds of bags, many of which had been dispatched back to Austin from canceled flights.

For some the impact was more than just a canceled flight. Elicia Michaud of Austin, 45, said four sets of grandchildren — a total of eight ranging from 13 to 22 and coming from different destinations — planned to surprise their grandparents, in their 80s, in Los Angeles. It was to be their first reunion since the coronavirus pandemic began. A photographer was lined up for the occasion. Now, Ms. Michaud said, it’s going to be canceled. “It’s going to be a massive bummer,” she said.”

Caleb Bae woke up before 3 a.m. on Monday to make an early-morning Southwest flight from Philadelphia to Nashville on his way to Los Angeles to see his family. But when he arrived at Nashville International Airport, he learned that the second leg of his trip was canceled because, he was told, there was not a crew for the flight.

“At this point, I don’t even know what to do,” Mr. Bae, 27, who lives near Boston and works in product support for a software company, said on Monday afternoon after about eight hours stuck in the airport. He had spent Christmas with his wife’s family before planning to see his own for a few days. “Now I’m not getting time with any of my family and am stranded on my own,” he said.

He said that Southwest had eventually offered him a travel voucher, but, he said, “I don’t necessarily want to fly with them again.”

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