Flight attendants union blames Southwest Airline's 'lack of technology' for widespread cancellations

Earns Southwest
Posted at 5:15 PM, Dec 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-27 19:34:23-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Just Tuesday alone, Southwest Airlines canceled another 145 flights in Nashville, and even more are expected in the days to come. Southwest is struggling to catch up after winter weather and scheduling issues have left scores of flights without a crew to fly them.

We're now getting a better idea about what's gone so horribly wrong. The Transport Workers Union of America, which represents thousands of Southwest flight attendants, tell NewsChannel 5 they blame the airline for insufficient technology that has left Southwest confused about where their flight crews are located.

"The lack of technology has left the airline relying on manual solutions and personal phone calls, leaving flight attendants on hold with Southwest Airlines for up to 17 hours at a time simply to be released to go home after their trip, or while attempting to secure a hotel room or know where their next trip will be," said Rachel Hedstrom, a spokesperson for the Transport Workers Union of America. "While reroutes and rescheduling are understood to be a part of the job in the airline industry, the massive scale of the failure over the past few days points to a shirking of responsibility over many years for investing in and implementing technology that could help solve for many of the issues that plague flight attendants and passengers alike."

"Super frustrating," said Bryan Schwartz, a passenger trying to get back to California. "I’m a little bit less patient than I usually would be."

"No flights — and we waited and waited and waited," said Rod Barker, a native Britain on vacation in the U.S.

Passengers at BNA seemed to be tired of waiting on flights, and many are counting how many days since they've been able to change clothes.

"Four and a half," said Barker. "You want a smell?"

So, many travelers decided that renting a car was a better path forward. Unfortunately, nearly everyone else in the airport seemed to have the same idea.

"People are trying, but everybody’s patience [is] short," said Cheryl Johnson, who was traveling back home to Kansas.

Barker took a plane and a bus just to reach Nashville. He hopes his next leg involves a rental car.

"I don’t know, maybe it’s already been hired out to somebody; nobody knows," he said.

But, it will be without his luggage, which appears to be misplaced — with many other wayward Southwest passengers' bags — stored in various locations along BNA's baggage claim area.

"We had a look; we spent an hour up there; we couldn’t find it," said Barker.

"It’s going to be a long day," said Schwartz.

Schwartz is hoping to rent a car so he can try another airport and airline.

"I’m here today renting a car so I can drive to Huntsville, AL and hopefully get on a Delta plane tomorrow morning," he said.

But his plans may be foiled, with so many people in line for a rental car. This rush in demand comes at a time when the rental car industry is already struggling with keeping up inventory.

Barker was so excited he actually got one, but he couldn't recall the make or model.

"It’s been guaranteed; it’s got four wheels," he said with a laugh.

He got a happy ending in a place where, over the last few days, time isn't exactly flying by.

Southwest Airlines warns they plan to cancel two-thirds of all of their flights nationally over the next several days in hopes of catching back up. To read Southwest's full statement, click here.

Get NewsChannel 5 Now, wherever, whenever, always free.

Watch the live stream below, and download our apps on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and more. Click here to learn more.