What's behind Southwest Airlines cancelling flights, and why are airline workers sleeping on floors?

Most airlines are averaging about a 5% cancellation rate right now. Southwest Airlines is sitting at 70%, and for those who are dealing with Southwest, they aren’t up against an annoying or inconvenient but short delay. Some, like Loretta Moore, could be stranded for up to a week.

"There’s nothing we can really do about the situation, we’re just stranded," said Moore. 

"Our flight’s been canceled. They didn’t even send us any notifications or anything," said Mario Rubio, who was sitting with his family at the Orlando International Airport Tuesday. 

Rubio said his restaurant has already been closed for four days, and the soonest Southwest Airlines can get him home is January 1 – meaning he’d lose out on almost an extra week of business.

"We don’t know now what we’re going to do. We’re just stuck over here," he told FOX 35. 

Southwest Airlines told Moore she can’t get back to Chicago until New Year’s Eve.

"So I asked the lady at the customer service desk, ‘Basically I’m going to be homeless for four days?’ and she was just like, ‘Yeah.’ No sympathy, no empathy, no accommodations, nothing."

In the meantime, Moore said, "They don’t offer no hotel accommodations, no staying accommodations."

People have a few options.

They can fork out the cash for hotels and food and wait for the next flight with Southwest. Moore said she considered that.

"But booking with a different airline, everything is now a high price," she said. "It’s like $2,500 a flight."

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says some airlines have capped their fares to help out with this situation. He’s hoping others will join suit.

So how about renting a car?

FOX 35 News called around to rental car agencies at the airport and was told there were cars available. Looking online, there were plenty listed for around $150. Most people FOX 35 spoke with said they tried, but were told there weren’t any available, or that they had come with jaw-dropping price tags. 

Rubio tried to do that to get back to Virginia.

"To rent a car from here to where we’re going is like $650, just one way."

Even airline employees are stranded.  Pilots and flight attendants are having to find hotel rooms too, and hope Southwest reimburses them in a timely manner.

Corliss King, the Vice President of the Union that represents Southwest Airlines flight attendants, said the union only recently earned flight attendants the right to book their own rooms when needed. King said airline employees are feeling the effects of the Southwest Airlines crisis too.

"Sleeping on floors, not sleeping at all, sleeping in lounges, sitting in chairs for hours and days, not having hot food, not having a place to take a shower," King described. "That is not humane. We’ve worked very hard for our passengers to not see that’s what we’re going through, but now it’s busted wide open."

King said winter storms did start all this trouble, but the bigger problem now is that the airline’s employee scheduling system went down. She says her union tried to tell the airline this could happen.

"[We] have forewarned over and over again, technology has to be brought up to date," said King. "We’ve offered solutions, we’ve asked for a seat at the table."

She said airline employees have to abide by certain federal regulations; they can’t work unlimited hours. King added that schedulers are trying to work everything out manually, leaving people lost in the system, and unable to work at all.

"If you can’t get through to someone on the phone to let them know where you are, they cannot possibly put you in the system to help fix the problem." 

For those looking to take alternative methods of transportation, there are options with trains and buses, but those aren’t as affordable as you may think and can take around five times longer than flying would.

There are some options to take a train or bus – but those trips take around five times longer than flying.