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An apology from Southwest Airlines as cancellations continue and travelers are frustrated

Some customers left on hold for as long as 4 hours

A screen at Logan Airport showed cancelled Southwest flights to Baltimore on Dec. 27.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

As Southwest Airlines continued its wave of widespread cancellations Thursday, a top official issued an apology while many travelers expressed frustration about not being able to reach anyone on the phone at the airline, and getting busy signals when calling to try to change their flight reservations.

Ryan Green, the chief commercial officer at Southwest Airlines, appeared in a video on Twitter Wednesday night, apologizing for the disruptions and pledging “to do everything we can and to work day and night to repair our relationship with you.”

Southwest officials said the busy signals on their phone lines were due to the elevated call volumes. As of Wednesday night, hold times were averaging more than an hour, with some callers left on hold for as long as four hours, the airline said.


On Thursday morning Southwest had cancelled 58 percent of its flights, scrapping a total of 2,357 flights nationwide, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

As of 8:30 a.m. Thursday, there were 33 cancellations and 36 delays at Logan Airport in Boston, and Southwest accounted for 26 of the cancellations, the data showed.

Among the cancellations at Logan on Thursday were Southwest flights destined for Baltimore, as well as flights due to arrive in Boston from Baltimore, Chicago, and Nashville, according to Massport’s website.

Southwest’s widespread cancellations across the country this week disrupted travel plans for thousands of travelers.

Passengers with reservations that were partially flown and customers who did not originally book their flights directly via the Southwest website or mobile app have been told the only way they can change their reservations is over the phone.

Many customers turned to social media to express their exasperation over Southwest’s phone system, which has been overwhelmed with calls all week.

“Still can’t get ahold of anyone for my canceled flight from 4 days ago to get a refund,” one person tweeted to Southwest Airline’s Twitter account Wednesday night. “Call... get hung up on over and over and over or just a busy signal.”


“I have been sitting on hold for over an hour now. I want a complete refund,” another person tweeted Wednesday night. “How do I process this on line so I don’t have to listen to the worst hold music in history?”

Southwest officials said they doubled the capacity of their 1-800-I-FLY-SWA phone line. Due to high demand, they are asking customers to hold off from calling, if at all possible.

“If you are not traveling within the next 72 hours, and can wait to call, please do so. If you need to reach us urgently, you may continue to call,” Southwest officials said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, and please know that we have all available hands on deck working to serve our customers.”

Airline officials are urging customers to use the Southwest app and website ( to rebook their flights if they can.

“Our app will show you a message if you can rebook your flight using the app,” Southwest officials said in a statement. “Tap the red box to rebook and find the next available flight. Our app shows the same inventory that our Southwest agents use and will help you find the next available Southwest flight without needing to call.”


In his video statement, Green apologized for the problems that customers were facing and promised to do better.

“My personal apology is the first step of making things right after many plans changed and experiences fell short of your expectations of us,” Green said in the video.

Green reminded customers that they can submit requests for refunds and receipts for reimbursable travel expenses on Southwest’s website, and passengers who are still waiting on luggage can now fill out a new form on the website that will help track down their bags.

“We’re continuing to work to make this up to you and you’ll hear more about that soon,” Green said in the video. “But for now, we’re focused on restoring the reliability and level of customer experience we expect of ourselves and that you expect from us.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.