Southwest Airlines canceled 440 flights Wednesday in the Midwest, in the Ohio Valley and in the northeast, and many planes were delayed.
A spokesman for the airline said the airline had canceled more than 350 flights in anticipation of adverse weather conditions. She "closely follows the anticipated movement of winter storms and manages aircraft out of service." But he acknowledged that part of his fleet was out of service because of mechanical problems.
The disruption, recorded by the FlightAware flight tracking site, comes as the low-cost carrier helps with the Association of Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) following a new agreement. 471 other flights to the southwest were delayed.
About 40 of Southwest's 750 aircraft were out of service Tuesday, according to a company spokeswoman, more than twice the usual number of devices unavailable for routine maintenance reasons.
Southwest said it was investigating service issues. Friday, the airline said ""oblige the mechanics to put the aircraft back into service as soon as possible.
"The airline continues to operate in accordance with a recruitment protocol adopted last weekend to maximize the availability of mechanics in all scheduled shifts to process maintenance items so that we can return the aircraft to service in full. security, "reads the statement.
In a statement to Kris Van Cleave, CBS News correspondent, Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's chief operating officer, commented: "AMFA has long been experiencing work interruptions and Southwest has two lawsuits against the union.We investigate this current disruption and explore all possible remedies. "
The mechanics' union responded that "the fact of making its technicians expert in the maintenance of aircraft scapegoats does not bode well for the safety of operations of the airline".
The Federal Aviation Administration said it "has strengthened its oversight of Southwest," citing this practice as a common practice when airlines face manpower problems.
Frustrations are vivid
Southwest faced a barrage of angry tweets Wednesday from stranded passengers.
"The Southwest flight is delayed and lacks connections, I booked a different flight and went through the airport, only to have @SouthwestAir close gate 10 before the flight." James Robinson said .
Another client, who said she was traveling alone with a 20-month-old toddler, said she was booked on a flight whose departure time had been postponed three times.
Even the Southwestern employee behind his normally jerky Twitter feed seemed upset by the influx of disgruntled customers, advising the exasperated mother to be patient and go for a "stroll".
Southwest mentioned maintenance issues in at least one of its responses to a traveler who was lamenting their canceled trip, although it's hard to know how many flight cancellations were related to the labor dispute by compared to difficult weather conditions.
Southwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In total, airlines canceled more than 2,200 US flights on Wednesday and more than 13,000 flights were delayed, according to FlightAware, a large part of the country prepared for a severe winter storm.
Among the other carriers, Republic was second in terms of cancellation, with 240 flights suspended, while American Airlines and United canceled respectively 108 and 24 flights.
The Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, was the most disrupted – 180 flights, or 39% of one-way trips were canceled Wednesday.