NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — From canceled and delayed flights to the search for lost luggage — this has not been a joyful holiday season for many Southwest Airlines passengers.
A string of issues like weather and outdated technology has caused chaos and confusion for crews and customers, and the airline company says reduced schedules will likely continue as staff members navigate through everything.
"It’s been crazy; I started out in Boise and got as far as Denver, and that’s when it all fell apart. Spent the night in the airport, but finally got the last flight out of Denver before it completely shut down," said Nedra Hatherill.
Hatherill said she spent five days looking for her luggage.
"I was safe; I got here, but my luggage... has been who knows where. But we found it; life is good. We can now have Christmas," said Hatherill.
It was not the reunion at the airport many people are used to seeing.
After days of waiting and searching, many Southwest customers found their lost luggage.
But no such luck for the Hillard family.
"It's like, not devastating, and I feel like we're still making the best of it. But it is hard," said Sarah Hillard.
By Wednesday, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 25,000 flights, according to FlightAware, and more than 200 of those were at Nashville International Airport.
Sarah said her family plans a holiday vacation every year.
They were scheduled to board from the Orlando airport and were ready to board a plane to head to Music City, but the flight got canceled.
They decided to drive, but they can't find their luggage. Sarah Hillard said this was day two of their search.
"We found bags from our flight, but not our bags," Sarah said.
Many people spent days combing throw the rows of bags, hoping to find theirs.
The Hillard family had to go to Target just to have something clean to wear.
"We had to buy clothes, shampoo, like, face... stuff, you know. I mean, all this stuff that you pack in a bag," Sarah said.
Sarah said she tried calling customer service but got nowhere.
"I haven’t heard anything," Sarah said. "Like, even like, 'sorry, your flight was canceled.' Like, literally nothing."
Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan did issue an apology to crews and customers in a video message.
"I want everyone who is dealing with the problems we've been facing, whether you haven't been able to get to where you need to go or you’re one of our heroic Employees caught up in a massive effort to stabilize the airline, to know is that we're doing everything we can to return to a normal operation," Jordan said. "And please also hear that I'm truly sorry."
Jordan said the plan for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule so the airline company can reposition crews and planes.
"We're making headway, and we're optimistic to be back on track before next week," Jordan said.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association released a statement Wednesday on its website saying in part, "The holiday meltdown has been blamed on weather that had been forecast five days prior, but this problem began many years ago when the complexity of our network outgrew its ability to withstand meteorological and technological disruptions. SWAPA subject matter experts have repeatedly presented years of data, countless proposals that make Southwest pilots more efficient and resilient."
Meanwhile, passengers just hope the situation is fixed soon.
Jordan also said teams are working on processing refunds, reaching out, and taking care of customers who are dealing with costly detours and reroutes.