Thousands of canceled flights have upended travel plans across the United States

Southwest Airlines said in a statement Monday that the travel disruptions were “unacceptable” and that its network was falling behind due to the winter storm that battered parts of the country with heavy snow, ice and high winds over the past week. “Our sincere apologies for this is just beginning,” the company said, adding that it is working to address the disruptions by “rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews.”

Southwest was in damage control mode late Monday and Tuesday morning, responding to angry and frustrated customers on Twitter. That Airline repeatedly apologized for the cancellations and offered help through direct messages, which didn’t appease everyone. The US Department of Transportation said in a statement on Monday that it would look into the Southwest issue, adding that it was concerned about the airline’s “unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays” and reports of poor customer service.

Southwest’s network is organized in what is known as a point-to-point system, according to David Vernon, airline analyst at finance firm Sanford C. Bernstein. This type of system allows for higher utilization of aircraft during normal times, but can have negative repercussions if something goes wrong.

No single region or airport bore the brunt of the cancellations. As of Tuesday morning, more than 150 flights from Denver International Airport, or about 17 percent of outbound traffic, were canceled, and more than 115 flights, or about 38 percent, from Chicago Midway International were canceled. More than 100 flights were also canceled at Harry Reid International in Las Vegas, and similar numbers were reported at Baltimore-Washington International, Dallas Love Field in Texas and Nashville International in Tennessee.

It has been almost a week since the winter storm began to devastate millions of people who could count on airlines to get them from A to B. The number of canceled flights began to rise last Thursday, with airlines canceling more than 2,600. The next day nearly 6,000, or about a quarter of all flights in the US, were canceled. Almost 3,500 flights were canceled on Christmas Eve and slightly fewer, around 3,200, were canceled from what was planned for Christmas Day.

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