February 1, 2023

BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — Thousands of travelers were stranded at U.S. airports on Monday as a wave of canceled flights — many of them operated by Southwest Airlines — spoiled holiday plans and kept families from returning home during one of the busiest and most stressful travel stretches of the year.

The cancellations and delays one day after Christmas left people sleeping on airport floors, standing in hourslong customer service lines and waiting on tarmacs for hours on end.

“The only thing we want is to get home,” said Francis Uba, who was among the frustrated passengers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Monday, where 115 flights were canceled.

He and his family returned from an eight-day cruise in the Bahamas on Monday to learn that their Southwest flight back home to Columbus, Ohio, had been canceled. Mr. Uba, 60, said the airline had rebooked them onto a Wednesday flight with no explanation.

Mr. Uba said he had spent five hours trying to find another flight but had not even been able to reach an airline customer service agent and was considering renting a car in order to get back to the health business he owns.

More than 3,600 flights in the United States were canceled as of Monday afternoon and more than 5,700 others were delayed, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. Southwest was by far the most disrupted airline, with about 2,700 canceled flights, about 65 percent of its total flights, according to FlightAware.

Chris Perry, a spokesman for Southwest, said in a statement that the airline was “experiencing disruptions across our network” as a result of the winter storms. “With the weather now considerably more favorable, we continue work to stabilize and improve our operation.”

The disruptions have kept many people from visiting their families over the holiday season and added to the problems caused by snow, ice and frigid weather during the frozen holiday weekend.

Caleb Bae woke up before 3 a.m. on Monday to make an early-morning flight from Philadelphia to Nashville on his way to Los Angeles to see his family. But when he arrived at the Nashville International Airport, he learned that the second leg of his trip was canceled. On Monday afternoon, he had been in the airport for about nine hours, with no end in sight.

“At this point, I don’t even know what to do,” said Mr. Bae, 27, who works in product support for a software company. He had spent Christmas with his wife’s family before planning to see his own for a few days. “Now I’m not getting time with any of my family and am stranded on my own.”

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