UPDATE 12/26 10:30 p.m. — Southwest canceled all its flights for Monday night. Many who had spent all day waiting in line at BWI left after hearing that the earliest date they could board a plane with the airline was Saturday.

An employee said that the scene at baggage claim was worse than the line that had formed during the day as passengers waited to claim their luggage.

UPDATE 12/26 9:44 p.m. — An employee with Southwest at BWI announced to passengers waiting in line that if they got to the counter Monday evening, the earliest date they would be able to fly out is New Year’s Eve.

The U.S. Department of Transportation released a statement on Twitter about the cancellations saying, “USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

According to FlightAware, 69% of Southwest flights have been canceled nationwide in the past 24 hours.

(DC News Now) — As flight cancellations and delays continue to sweep the nation during high holiday traffic after frigid temperatures and winter weather, one airline was seeing high volumes of cancellations.

According to the flight tracker FlightAware, many flight cancellations — around 65% — on December 26 were from Southwest.

DC News Now reached out to the airline for a statement, and they confirmed that a “significant portion” of their flights have been canceled. They also offered “heartfelt apologies,” saying the challenges to customers and employees alike were “just beginning.”

“We’re supposed to be flying to Puerto Rico, and I don’t think we’re ever going to get to Puerto Rico. The line is not even moving,” said passenger Tina Lustgarten.

Passengers affected by the airline’s changes lined up at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) on Monday.

Passengers lined up outside of Southwest at BWI on December 26, 2022, after a series of delays and cancellations.

“I was up here visiting family over Christmas. A good freezing vacation, and I’m ready to go back to Florida,” said passenger Michele Reed.

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.

Statement from Southwest

“We’ll work to make things right for those we’ve let down, including our Employees,” Southwest said in their statement. “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.”

Many customers who had been in line for hours trying to get answers were done and told DC News Now that they were ready to throw in the towel.

“We’re giving up. We’re going to go home,” Lustgarten said.