Southwest flight cancellation hits extra hard for Central Florida family

Nicole Ramirez had her suitcases packed and her alarm set for 5:30 a.m. to give herself plenty of time to get her and her 6-year-old up and out the door. 

They had tickets for a direct flight from Orlando to Philadelphia on Southwest Airlines departing at 9:44 a.m.  She woke up to discover things weren’t going to go as planned.  

"At 12:50 am we received a text message but I didn’t see it because I was sleeping," Nicole said. 

The mother and daughter aren’t going on vacation. Rosie, Nicole’s daughter, has been battling Stage 4 neuroblastoma for three years.  On Tuesday morning, she’s scheduled to check in for surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Nicole got on the phone right after she read the text message from Southwest Airlines. 

"I immediately called the airline and spoke to someone and explained that wouldn’t work, we have to get to Philly, my daughter has surgery tomorrow. They couldn’t help me. They basically said there’s no flights from OIA to Philly today or tomorrow," Nicole said.  "I’m under so much stress and you add that.  It’s just so much."

RELATED: Southwest continues to cancel more flights on Monday after weekend disruptions

Nicole tells FOX 35 News she asked the Southwest agent on the other line why there were so many cancellations.  

"Weather and air traffic controllers shortage," Nicole said. "I personally think they’re lying and covering up something else."

Southwest has canceled flight more than a thousand flights over the weekend.  The Federal Aviation Administration tweeted that there were "no air traffic staffing shortages since Friday" saying some airlines "continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place."   

There have been rumors of pilots calling out sick in response to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  Southwest Airlines Pilots Association issued a statement saying, in part, "we can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions." 

Late Monday, Southwest Airlines released a statement apologizing to customers and employees for the flight cancellations and delays that happening over the weekend thru Monday. The statement read:

"On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday.  While we do not have specific airport numbers to share, Southwest Teams have been working diligently to restore stability to the network, and we are experiencing less disruptions on Monday. We hope to restore our full schedule as soon as possible. As a note, the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations, as some outlets are reporting."

According to at 6 p.m. Monday night Southwest Airlines had canceled 10%of Monday’s flights company-wide and 40% of their Monday flights were delayed. 

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