Massive flight cancellations leave hundreds of suitcases stranded at US airports
After a weekend of cancelled flights and travel delays, storm-weary travellers in the US found themselves facing yet another challenge - tracking down their lost luggage. In airports around the country, thousands of bags have piled up, waiting for their rightful owners to claim them.
At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC, travellers went through a rollercoaster of emotions as they combed through rows of suitcases and duffel bags to find their missing luggage.
Diane Ohashi, a traveller who spent Christmas at an airport after her flight to Washington, DC was cancelled, was overwhelmed to find her missing suitcase that had presents for her brother.
"I came to see my brother and wanted to surprise him. And I got stuck in Dallas, and I spent Christmas by myself, and here I am. And I wasn't expecting to find my luggage, and I literally had nothing. And Southwest didn't want to pay for anything. They didn't want to reimburse me. They didn't want to put me in a hotel. So I dished out extra money to fly with American Airlines. And I finally got here. And I found my bags," Ohashi said.
Some, like Marla Makowka, waited in a long line patiently to inquire about their lost luggage.
"It is what it is. It's a big mess, but it's okay. You know, it's Christmas. It's Christmas. Yeah. This is not these people's fault I don't know what happened in the world of Southwest in general, but, you know, I think it's a time to be kind and generous and it is what it is. So I'll stand, I'll wait and it'll show up when it shows up," Makowka said.
Bill Gem, from Amarillo, Texas, raised his hands in the air and exclaimed, "yoo, hoo!" after a Southwest Airlines staff member found the last of his four pieces of luggage. "Has anyone given you a hug, saying thank you?" Gem said, hugging the staff member as she wheeled his luggage back to him.
An arctic blast and a massive winter storm dubbed Elliott swept over much of the United States in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday weekend, forcing Southwest and other airlines to scrap more than 12,000 flights since Friday.
Southwest Airlines on Tuesday led US airline cancellations again as the low-cost carrier struggled with harsh winter weather that grounded planes and left some workers unable to tend to jets, disrupting holiday travel for many.
Suitcases were amassed in Sacramento airport's terminal on Monday (December 26).
An eyewitness also captured on Tuesday hundreds of suitcases and bags stranded at Chicago's Midway Airport after weather woes brought massive flight cancellations across the United States.
The travel disruptions carried into Tuesday (December 27) as Southwest Airlines Co led US airline cancellations.
The carrier had cancelled 2,589 flights as of Tuesday 2.25 pm ET (1925GMT) or roughly two-thirds of its schedule, representing 86% of all US airline cancellations, according to tracking website FlightAware.
Additionally, Southwest called off about 2,500 flights scheduled for Wednesday (December 28) and over 1,000 flights from its Thursday (December 29) schedule.
The airline's cancellations on Tuesday were 30 times more than those of Spirit Airlines, the carrier with the second-most cancellations.
Shares of Southwest fell as much as 6.3% to a two-month low of $33.81.
The company has a more aggressive schedule than most other U.S. airlines and tighter turnaround times to accommodate its network that connects vast swathes of the country.
It earns most of its profits from flying domestically and unlike other large US carriers, Southwest relies more on point-to-point service instead of operating out of large hubs. That leaves its staff vulnerable to being stranded in case of disruptions.
In total, airlines have cancelled more than 5,000 U.S. flights for Tuesday and Wednesday.