Southwest says weather to blame for cancellations, but was it really that bad?

The long weekend was a bit longer for many travelers as Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights and delayed hundreds more.

The airline issued a statement and said air traffic control issues and disruptive weather were causes of the massive cancellations and delays.

"Weather is everything when it comes to airline operations," meteorologist and aviation expert JP Dice said. 

He said we’re still in a post-COVID situation with air carriers still trying to get back to normal after being shut down for so long. Weather delays and air traffic control issued just add to the problem.

"There were staffing issues at Jacksonville Center. That is a major sector across the Southeast," Dice said. "That’s limiting travel that’s going into places like Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. And to get those airplanes from Point A to Point B, it’s kind of a trickle-down effect.

Dice explained that you’ll have an airplane that can’t get to an airport, and that’s when you have delays and cancellations.

In regards to the Southwest Airlines issues, Dice said he thinks it was more of an air traffic control issue and not weather.

"The weather was not that bad on that particular day," Dice said.

Southwest Airlines President and COO Mike Van de Ven released a statement apologizing for the operational disruption and said crews were not in pre-planned positions to operate the airline's Saturday schedule because of the weather and air traffic constraints.

"Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday," he said in the statement.

Dice also said there was military training that added to the problems and seemed to affect Southwest Airlines more than any other airline.

So will the issues recently be a preview of what we could see this winter?

"Winter weather is a lot more problematic than thunderstorms," Dice said.

He explained that many people think the problems come with situations like severe thunderstorms or tornadoes.

"It’s really not that that causes the significant delays," Dice said. "It’s icy runways. It’s when you get a nor’easter that’s moving through Boston for example or the Northeast."

He said that’s when we’ll start to see a lot of cancellations and delays.

"Airliners can deal with a lot of adverse conditions. But icy runways, a lot of snow and low visibility, that’s when it tends to be a problem."