MORRSIVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Thousands of flights across the country were either delayed or canceled on Monday.
It was a holiday travel headache, causing chaos from coast to coast.
The impacts were felt strongly for passengers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, there were more than 100 flights at RDU that were either canceled or delayed.
Throughout the day, a long line in Terminal 1 stretched from the Southwest Airlines ticket counter, down the hallway.
People told CBS 17 crews they were just hoping to be reunited with their friends and family soon.
“Our flight got canceled,” said Mia Satterwhite.
Her parents have been planning for months to surprise their daughters with a family vacation for Christmas.
“We got up at 6:15 a.m. and we got all ready, and then we got here, and our flight got cancelled,” explained Satterwhite. “Our parents have been to every airline and asked them for anything. They don’t have anything until Wednesday.”
Lauren Whittwer was hoping to see her family for the first time since May.
“It looked like it was delayed, then it got un-delayed, then it got delayed again and now it’s cancelled,” she explained.
It took her, her husband and her kids more than two hours just to try and get answers from Southwest Airline officials.
“When we got here, we were back lined up by the baggage claim,” Whittwer said. “We took a video to show my parents. This was the craziest thing we’ve ever seen.”
It was a similarly chaotic scene at Nashville’s airport, where Raleigh native Caleb Nance was stuck for hours, trying to get back home.
“There are two lines, coming all the way, wrapping around,” he showed CBS 17 crews via video interview. “Apparently our flight wasn’t technically canceled, it was just removed, because Houston, where our flight was coming from, just passed over us.”
Nance and his fiancée couldn’t get another flight until December 28th, so they decided to cancel their travel plans and rent a car to drive to North Carolina.
Nance knows winter weather is partly to blame but believes airline officials were just not prepared.
“We had troubles this morning in Detroit, just for staffing issues and getting on the plane,” he explained. “They had one person at the desk to check your bags and by the time we got on, we were nearly going to miss our flight.”
In the afternoon, Southwest officials were heard over the intercom system asking for volunteers heading to Atlanta, Nashville and Baltimore to take charter buses to their destination.
CBS 17 crews saw about a dozen passengers get on the bus headed towards Nashville.
Kylie Petrovich was one of them.
She started her travel day with a 6:15 a.m. flight that dominoed into more flight issues.
At RDU, she wasn’t even able to speak with a customer service representative.
“The line was so long. There were like 100 people in front of me,” said Petrovich.
Around 4:30 p.m. she was prepared to finally head back to Nashville.
“The only other flights are 20 hours from now or thousands of dollars, so they offered the charter bus,” added Petrovich.
Petrovich told CBS 17 officials did not tell her why her flights were canceled, nor did they offer any compensation.
Other passengers told CBS 17 crews they were told Southwest Airlines were suffering from network issues.
Southwest Airlines issued a press release Monday evening:
“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable.
And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.
We’re working with Safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning Crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us.
We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S. This forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity.
This safety-first work is intentional, ongoing, and necessary to return to normal reliability, one that minimizes last-minute inconveniences. We anticipate additional changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the coming New Year holiday travel period. And we’re working to reach to Customers whose travel plans will change with specific information and their available options.
Our Employees and Crews scheduled to work this holiday season are showing up in every single way. We are beyond grateful for that. Our shared goal is to take care of every single Customer with the Hospitality and Heart for which we’re known.
On the other side of this, we’ll work to make things right for those we’ve let down, including our Employees.
With no concern higher than ultimate Safety, the People of Southwest share a goal to take care of each and every Customer. We recognize falling short and sincerely apologize.”-Southwest Airlines