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After thousands of flight cancellations, Southwest returns to normal

After a rash of delays and cancellations throughout the country, Southwest Airlines announced Friday that it had resumed a normal schedule and reported only a few disruptions at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

The airline had 43, or 1 percent, of its flights canceled, and 331, or 8 percent, delayed nationwide early Friday morning, according to tracking website FlightAware. Only four of its flights had been canceled at Reid airport, the website said.

The cancellation numbers for Southwest planes flying into and out of Reid were a vast improvement from the 189 flights halted by the airline on Thursday, Reid airport spokesman Joe Rajchel said.

“That’s a huge reduction and a huge relief heading into the New Year’s weekend here,” he said. “We are seeing low cancellations.”

Meanwhile, in the morning and the early afternoon Friday, inbound flights to Reid by a variety of airlines were delayed at their origin an average of 50 minutes because of low clouds, FlightAware reported.

The low clouds come from inclement weather in the Las Vegas area this time of year, Rajchel said.

“It’s not surprising to see delays for that,” he added.

Things looking up

For Southwest, it appears that the airline may be turning a page on the end of an awful week. Because of unusually heavy snowstorms, it had to scratch off more than 13,000 flights since Dec. 22, stranding and upsetting hundreds of passengers who crowded airport terminals crammed with their baggage.

On Thursday, 95 percent of the flights canceled nationwide were Southwest’s.

The good news Friday was a turnabout for Reid airport flight cancellations compared with Thursday, when it had the third-highest number of flights canceled behind Chicago Midway International Airport and Denver International Airport.

The Chicago and Denver airports are major flight route hubs for Southwest, and flight schedules there were affected by snowfall in Midwestern and Eastern states that resulted in many cancellations and delays.

The baggage backup hit Reid as hard as any large airport this week, but as of Friday, things appeared back to business as usual.

On its Twitter account, Reid airport indicated as much with a tweet showing its early New Year’s Eve party in the terminal, including photos of a DJ amid a crowd of passengers at the baggage claim area, without any luggage to be seen.

Some baggage from Southwest passengers who experienced cancellations or delays this week remained stored at Reid as of Friday, but the airline “is doing a good job for passengers coming in to claim,” said Rajchel, who did not know how many pieces of stranded luggage there were.

‘This needs to never happen again’

Southwest chief executive officer Bob Jordan said Friday that the company had returned to stability.

“This has impacted so many people, so many customers over the holidays,” Jordan said in a company statement quoting from his appearance on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.”

“It’s impacted our employees,” he said. “And I’m extremely sorry for that.”

The airline is “making investments in our operations areas,” Jordan said. “There’ll be a lot of lessons learned in terms of what we can do to make sure that this never happens again because this needs to never happen again.”

As of 1 p.m. Friday, the flow of flights from all airlines to and from Reid was smoother, if less than perfect.

Of the flights originating from Reid airport, only three, or less than 1 percent, were canceled and 141, or 18 percent, were delayed, according to FlightAware.

Among flights destined for Reid, only seven, or under 1 percent, had been canceled, and 160, or 20 percent, delayed, FlightAware reported.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com. Contact him @JeffBurbank2 on Twitter.

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