Flight cancellations frustrate travelers, cause multi-day delays

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Winter storms, a busy holiday travel period and reduced airline staffing have all contributed to flight cancellations that persist past the holiday weekend, frustrating travelers who are trying to return home or start their vacations.

Flight Aware, a national flight tracker, reports more than 3,600 flights were canceled and about 6,000 flights delayed Monday – a sign that airlines continue to struggle.

The Portland International Airport canceled hundreds of flights Friday due to icy and windy conditions. Many more were canceled on Saturday.

With many flights fully booked following the holiday weekend, some travelers are forced to wait days for another flight option.

“I think for the most part, people understand when there’s a weather event like this, it’s a day delay, when it’s the holidays, it’s a day delay and when entire airports are shut down, it’s a day delay,” said Lauren Zavrel, who’s looking to fly home to PDX. “So, you compound all those factors and get a four-day delay, it is what it is.”

Zavrel and her family were supposed to fly home from Florida on Christmas morning.

Now, they’re staying near Miami until Thursday, when they’ve been booked on the next available rescheduled flight.

She said it’s still their best option to get home.

“We looked at [other flight destinations] to try to get a little closer and drive the rest of the way,”  she said. “We were looking at renting a camper van, we were looking at trains, for every single option there was nothing into LAX, Denver, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Eugene, nothing. So we have to wait.”

The flight issues are even affecting one of our own: KGW reporter Mike Benner.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this, it’s insanity, it’s madness, it really is,” Benner said.

Benner has had five flights canceled since Thursday, when he was set to fly home from his pre-Christmas visit to St. Louis with his family.

Monday, Benner, his wife and kids split up with plans to fly to two different airports, in hopes to get half of the family home to Portland, but their Southwest Airlines flights were canceled due to a lack of available flight crews.

“The looks on the faces of the people working here at the airport, you can’t help but feel for them,” Benner said. “It’s not their fault, clearly, but as a dad who’s trying to get home with one of my three kids, it’s taking everything I have to keep my cool.”

Southwest Airlines canceled roughly two-thirds of its flights Monday, more than 2,700 in total, as the latest airline to experience major problems.

In a statement, Southwest apologized for the ‘operational challenges’ and wide-scale disruption.

The airline said wait times for customer service are currently averaging more than two hours and have been as high as four hours.

Sunday, Alaska Airlines said many guests would be delayed several days in booking replacement flights because the existing flights following Christmas were already fully booked.

Zavrel said, for the most part, flyers are understanding of the circumstances, but that doesn’t mean frustrations aren’t mounting.

The cancellations have forced people to miss work and caused one boy, Rigel Aumuller to miss something far more important, Christmas.

“This one obviously wanted to get home an open presents and see the rest of his family and so what are we doing about that, did Santa visit you in the hotel?”

Zavrel said to him on the zoom call from Florida, explaining that Santa made an extra stop in Florida to explain the gift delay.

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