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After mass cancellations, Southwest expects flights to normalize this week

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·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft lands at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California
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(Reuters) -Southwest Airlines Co said on Monday it expects to resume normal service this week after cancelling more than 2,500 scheduled flights since Saturday, blaming unfavorable weather and air traffic issues in Florida.

The airline had canceled 1,124 flights, or 30% of its daily operation, on Sunday and more than 800 trips on Saturday, according to data from flight tracking platform flightaware.com https://flightaware.com/live/cancelled. The website also showed over 588 cancellations on Monday.

Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said in a message to employees late on Sunday that the sudden flight cancellations had caused staff shortages and may lead to a reduction in the number of flights the company can operate in November and December.

Southwest, whose shares fell as much as 4.3%, did not give the number of cancellations, but said it was "significant".

"While we work to stabilize our operations, we anticipate to resume normal service this week," the airline said in a reply to a tweet https://twitter.com/SouthwestAir/status/1447540813576081409 from a flier asking about a canceled flight.

Meanwhile, its pilots union has denied speculation on social media that the cancellations were due to their action.

The union said in a statement https://www.swapa.org/news/2021/press-release on Saturday that it was "aware of operational difficulties" but its pilots were "not participating in any official or unofficial job actions."

It had last week said it would file a temporary restraining order to stop Southwest from complying with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, which included major airlines.

Southwest's executive vice president of daily operations, Alan Kasher, said on Sunday that due to the staffing shortages caused by the weekend's disruptions, the airline would implement mandatory overtime for employees.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Sunday "no FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday PM due to widespread severe weather, military training, and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville en route center."

(Reporting by Sinéad Carew, David Shepardson and Uday Sampath; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Arun Koyyur and Shailesh Kuber)