TPA holiday air traffic snarled by winter weather woes
As Tampa International Airport comes off of one of its busiest weekends of the holiday travel period, many passengers are still rebooking flights after airlines canceled thousands of flights nationwide due to harsh winter weather throughout much of the country. Hundreds of those canceled flights were to and from TPA.
While most airlines have recovered from the impacts of last week’s winter storm, Southwest Airlines operations continue to be severely affected at TPA and across the U.S. On Christmas Sunday and the following Monday, the majority of Southwest flights were canceled at TPA, leading to long lines and understandably frustrated travelers.
On Monday, Dec. 26, TPA had a total of 135 cancelations, more than 75 percent of which were Southwest flights. As of Tuesday morning, Dec. 27, the Airport had 112 cancelations, 90 percent of which were Southwest flights. Southwest canceled nearly 70 percent of its schedule Tuesday in and out of TPA, and more cancelations are expected throughout the week. On Wednesday, TPA is expecting 106 cancellations, 99 percent of them belonging to Southwest, equating to 75 percent of the airline's originally planned flight schedule in and out of Tampa.
Southwest passengers impacted by the cancelations were advised by the airline to use online self-service tools to rebook or request refunds, as the airline’s phone system was impacted by high demand.
TPA also saw luggage pile up in its facilities, as did other airports around the country, as passengers stuck in other locations were separated from their checked belongings. As of Tuesday morning, much of the luggage in TPA's baggage claim area had been retrieved as Southwest employees worked quickly to reunite passengers with their bags.
“We recognize that many of our Customers are currently separated from their belongings, and we’re working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” Southwest said on its “Frequently asked questions” portion of the self-service page.
Travelers affected by Southwest’s delays and cancelations should work directly with the airline to resolve schedule or luggage issues. Aside from the issues specific to Southwest, TPA has the following tips for travelers flying through the Airport this week and through the busy New Year’s holiday weekend:
- Always check with your airline prior to heading to the airport to ensure your flight is departing on time
- Arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure – three hours if flying internationally – to ensure you have ample time to find a parking space
- Reserve a parking space by booking online to save both time and money
- When picking up passengers, use the Cell Phone Waiting Lot or Blue Express Curbs to avoid circling the roadways or hunting for space in the Short Term Parking Garage
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast, both locally and nationally, and proactively reschedule flights around potentially impactful weather events