Airlines are managing the holiday travel rush, with a hiccup from Southwest

From Dec. 21 through Christmas Day, U.S. airlines canceled a total of 861 flights, or 0.8% of their schedule, according to FlightAware.

From Dec. 21 through Christmas Day, U.S. airlines canceled a total of 861 flights, or 0.8% of their schedule, according to FlightAware. Photo Credit: mdbildes/Shutterstock

Buoyed by mostly benign weather, U.S. airline operations have seen relatively few disruptions so far this holiday season. 

Southwest Airlines had the most difficulties among large U.S. airlines over the Christmas weekend, though the carrier’s challenges did not approach anywhere near the scale of its infamous operational collapse a year ago.  

From Dec. 21 through Christmas Day, U.S. airlines canceled a total of 861 flights, or 0.8% of their schedule, according to FlightAware. The carriers also delayed 17.4% of flights. Those figures compare favorably to the 1.2% of flights that U.S. airlines have canceled overall this year, and to their 2023 late-arrival rate of 20.7%. 

Calm weather across much of the U.S. has worked in airlines’ favor, though careful scheduling and increased staffing redundancy have also likely played a role in the strong performance. Unseasonably warm weather persisted across much of the eastern half of the country over the weekend. The Christmas Day U.S. snow coverage was the least in more than two decades, according to The Weather Channel. 

Southwest said that dense fog at Chicago Midway, it’s fourth-busiest airport, on Saturday and Sunday was the leading cause of cancellations over the weekend. Southwest canceled 559 flights from Dec. 21 to Dec. 25, amounting to 2.6% of its schedule, and delayed 26.1% of flights. 

“We are now operating a normal schedule at Chicago Midway and across our network,” Southwest said in a statement Tuesday. “We are fully staffed and all gates are open and fully operating with no additional challenges expected.”

Airlines got off to a good start Tuesday, with just 79 flights into, out of or within the U.S. having been canceled by just after 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, according to FlightAware.

This year’s holiday season is expected to be among the busiest on record, with a 16% increase in passengers per day over last year, according to trade group Airlines for America.

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