Southwest blames travel woes on hourslong shutdown at Orlando airport


ORLANDO, Fla. – Southwest Airlines issued a statement on Thursday about its recent travel woes, saying they were caused, in part, because Orlando International Airport was closed for seven hours late last week due to weather.

Southwest later amended the letter from airline President and COO Mike Van de Ven, saying OIA was closed for several, not seven, hours.

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Storms moved through Central Florida on Friday, but it’s not known if OIA was shut down for hours. News 6 has reached out to the airport for comment but has not yet heard back.

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The airline said it was unable to fly in or out of Orlando while the airport was closed.

“About a quarter of Southwest’s Crew assignments include at least one Florida city. One of our largest Crew Bases is at Orlando International Airport, and that airport was shut to departing and arriving air traffic for several hours on Friday—preventing the flow of aircraft and Crews into the network,” the statement reads.

Southwest canceled thousands of flights earlier this week, leading many to speculate that the airlines’ recent COVID vaccine mandate prompted a “sickout” from pilots and staff. The airline and the pilots union, however, dispute that claim.

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Five days after the cancellations began, the airline said it was mostly back on schedule.

No other airlines suffered any similar setbacks over the past week.

In its letter, Southwest apologized for the delays and flight cancellations and promised to make changes to avoid similar issues in the future.

Below is the full letter from Southwest:

I’d like to address the operational challenges we faced recently and offer an explanation of what happened. But first, let me begin with our heartfelt apology to everyone whose travel was disrupted by these events: we are truly sorry.

The operational disruption began on Friday and was initially created by weather and air traffic constraints that stalled our Florida operations for many hours. As a result, our aircraft and Crews were not in their pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday. Weather and air traffic constraints were not an issue beyond Friday, but it took us several days to re-set our network after the initial challenges.

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Despite widespread rumors and speculation, the weekend challenges were not a result of unusual Southwest Employee activity, and there simply is nothing in our data that indicates that particular reason. Our Employees worked heroically in the midst of these adverse conditions and many came in on off days, or flew additional trips, to help the airline recover. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for their tireless work and dedication to serving our Customers.

I’m sure you are curious as to why Friday’s challenges impacted Southwest more than other airlines. For starters, flying to and from Florida is a large portion of our schedule, and disruptions to Florida quickly spread throughout our network given our point-to-point flying. In fact, approximately 40-50% of Southwest’s aircraft fly through Florida on any given day.

Additionally, about a quarter of Southwest’s Crew assignments include at least one Florida city. One of our largest Crew Bases is at Orlando International Airport, and that airport was shut to departing and arriving air traffic for several hours on Friday—preventing the flow of aircraft and Crews into the network.

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We’ve said numerous times, the pandemic is unprecedented and extremely complex—it was messy going into it, and it’s messy as we fight to emerge from it. Going forward, our number one focus is to hire more people—with a goal of hiring more than 5,000 by the end of the year and with 50% of the goal already met.

Additionally, we continue to evaluate potential network schedule changes to mitigate operational risks as we head into the holidays. There is certainly more work to be done as we approach November, and our Teams are dedicated to doing that work to support a reliable operation.

Again, I fully realize that any attempt at an explanation falls short of our ultimate goal of delivering you to your destination on time with our typical Southwest hospitality. You expect and deserve better Customer Service from us, and we are committed to making necessary adjustments to deliver on that expectation.

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We are doing our best to proactively reach out to Customers whose travel plans were impacted to offer our apologies and invite them to give us another chance to earn their business. If Customers require assistance from Southwest, they can use one of the airline’s self-service options for convenience or Contact Us via one of the methods listed on Southwest.com.

I want to thank our People, and especially our frontline Employees, who have worked around the clock to help Customers impacted by these challenges. They are our true heroes.

Finally, I want to offer my sincere apologies once again to every Customer affected over the past week, and I humbly invite you to give us another chance to make it up to you on your next trip.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.





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ITB Berlin: Balearic Islands plot careful course out of Covid-19 shutdown | News


The government of Mallorca is continuing to plot cautious pandemic course out of the Covid-19 pandemic and is hoping to relax restrictions on tourism soon.

“We see the end of the crisis,” said Francina Armengol, prime minister of the Balearic Islands, standing on the stage at the port of Palma.

For the islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, the persistently low incidence figures give reason for hope.

Tourism minister, Iago Neugueruela, declared: “We want safe travel corridors for our guests from Germany – with the maximum possible safety for travellers and residents.”

The Balearic Islands would have proven in 2020 that they are able to cope with the crisis, said Neugueruela.

“We have the best security conditions and the best health system in the Mediterranean region.

“So we are confident that travellers will soon turn,” he said.

In addition to sophisticated test and screening concepts, the hopes of the Balearic tourism experts are now on the progressive vaccination of the population and visitors, added Armengol.

“A digital vaccination pass that is recognised in Europe or even worldwide would be a great relief for the tourism industry,” he said.

“The Balearic Islands are available as a pilot area for the Spanish vaccination certificate.”

The pandemic requires a new approach to the economic model of the Balearic Islands, which is closely linked to tourism, Neugueruela emphasised.

Concepts for social, financial and ecological sustainability are more important than ever in order to create a balance between economy and tourism, security, health infrastructure and improved services.





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Dubai boosts inspections as partial hospitality shutdown is extended | News


The Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has joined forces with various authorities to ensure establishments across the tourism ecosystem are fully implementing precautionary measures to combat Covid-19.

The move comes after the city was forced to partially lockdown elements of the hospitality sector following a spike in cases.

Since the reopening of the city to domestic tourism in May and international tourists in July, Dubai Tourism claims to have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance with health and safety protocols.

Heavy fines and penalties were also imposed against violators of precautionary guidelines.

Dubai Tourism added it continues to conduct joint inspection campaigns in cooperation with Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and the Department of Economic Development (Dubai Economy), especially across places that attract large gatherings.

Penalties for violations range from fines to final warnings, suspension of permits and closure of the facility.

Following the New Year’s Eve celebrations, Dubai Tourism in coordination with other relevant authorities, has conducted nearly 10,000 inspections of hotels and recreational facilities.

A total of 274 violations were recorded and 47 facilities closed.

A new set of precautionary measures against Covid-19, due to run until the end of February, have been extended until the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April.

The new rules cover various sectors and activities with shopping malls; hotel establishments, swimming pools and private beaches in hotels required to operate at 70 per cent capacity. 

Indoor venues, including cinemas and entertainment and sports venues, will continue to operate at 50 per cent of maximum capacity while pubs and bars will remain closed during this period.





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Travel Vouchers Set To Expire As Anniversary Of COVID Shutdown Nears – CBS Los Angeles


LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – As we approach the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown, those who cancelled travel early on in the pandemic may see their vouchers expire soon.

Scott Keyes with Scott’s Cheap Flights says many airline travel vouchers will expire after a year.

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He says the biggest mistake hesitant travelers can make is waiting until after their voucher expires to ask to extend it.

Keyes says you have to reach out beforehand.

“The original expiration date is really more written in pencil than in pen,” he said. “The airlines and hotels won’t proactively extend them for you, but there is a squeaky wheel gets the grease kind of situation.”

Experts say it’s good to be persistent when asking for a refund or extension – but be polite.

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If your voucher already expired, Keyes says it’s still worth calling the hotel or airline because you may be able to still get all or some of your credit back.

Keyes also provided us with a list of the current airline voucher policies:

On United, travel certificates are valid for up to 24 months after the date they were issued while future flight credits for tickets issued between May 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, are valid for 24 months after the original issue date. This means you need to book by the expiration date but you can travel after it.

On American, a flight credit is good for travel within one year from the issue date with the caveat that if your credit expires before March 31, 2021, it can be used for a travel date through December 31, 2021. A voucher must be used within one year of issue (the travel date doesn’t have to be within the year).

And on Delta, vouchers usually must be used within the year. But, for tickets purchased before April 17, 2020, for original travel by March 31, 2021, you can use your voucher for travel until December 31, 2022.

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Southwest puts credits into travel funds which normally can be used for a flight that takes place within one year of issue. But for pandemic-era flights, it extended the travel date to September 7, 2022.



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Restaurant workers struggle through indoor dining shutdown | Local News


While Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-week ban on indoor dining hammered restaurants across Pennsylvania, it took an even harder toll – personally and financially – on the workers who lost jobs or hours during the shutdown.

Jacquelyn Porter had been a server at Angelo’s II in Monongahela for three years when the initial three-month shutdown at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring left her out of work.

She was behind in her rent and utilities for a few months, but finally began recovering over the summer and fall when the new ban went into effect Dec. 12, just before Christmas.

“It was pretty awful. We didn’t get a normal Christmas like usual,” Porter said. “I started getting caught up … and then things got bad.”

While Wolf announced last week that his order halting indoor dining will end today as scheduled, many in the restaurant industry are nervous about whether more restrictions could return if COVID-19 cases increase. Porter asked that Wolf and other government officials look out for restaurant workers who are losing out on tips and might not make enough money to qualify for additional unemployment compensation.

“He needs to figure out a plan to help out these people … because we’re really suffering,” Porter said.

That suffering has been personal for Ryan Dzimiera, who owns the restaurant where Porter worked until it transitioned to takeout only. Of his dozen employees, only four are currently working at the restaurant, including the cooks who are on shorter hours.

“It’s terrible. It’s actually heartbreaking, especially during the holidays,” he said. “You hate to lay them off, but there’s not a lot for them to do.”

But the response from the community has been heartening, he said.

“A lot of people have been very good,” Dzimiera said. “They’ve been very generous, very kind with their takeout tips.”

But the loss of full service dining has meant fewer customers and fewer tips. Even servers who are still working have noticed a decline in income.

Stacey Finnegan, a server and manager at Harry’s Pizza in McMurray, said she’s lost 60% of her typical income this year.

“It’s not the same,” Finnegan said. “Little things like drinks, it all makes a difference. … It’s been tough. A lot of people have never tipped on takeout before. They thank you for being open but put an ‘X’ on the (tip) line.”

Some customers, however, are making an effort to provide tips for employees when they order takeout.

“I believe people are trying to give if they have it,” said Melanie Evanovich, who works at Al ‘an Rubens near Washington.

Evanovich is traveling less while her credit card companies are allowing her to skip payments and her mortgage lender is letting her pay on only the interest and insurance of her loan. She is looking forward to reopening and thinks the safety precautions taken at her restaurant – time limits on seating, social distancing and heavy cleaning – will make people comfortable dining inside.

“Everyone who comes here tell us they feel safe,” she said.

Eric Sampson, who owns Mom Maruca’s in Uniontown with his parents, said they’re ready to reopen, but the past three weeks have been tough. The restaurant has not had to furlough any of its 10 workers, who are now pitching in answering the phone, making salads and bringing takeout meals to customers.

“We’re just trying to keep it going. It’s tough. We’re just trying to follow the rules the best we can,” he said. “This is my parents’ only source of income. So we’re doing the best we can within the rules to survive. We worked hard to build this and we’re not willing to let it go, so we’re trying to be sensible until it passes.”

He noted that many servers average about $3 per hour in salary, so they rely heavily on tips for their income. That’s why it’s so important for restaurants to reopen for dining, Sampson said, although he and others are weary Wolf may eventually shut them down again.

“We’re elated, but he’s gone back on his word before,” Sampson said. “We’re just waiting on pins and needles so we can open Monday.”

Riley George, who works at the SpringHouse in Eighty Four, said revenue has been steady since the buffet-style meals have been easily packaged for takeout while the dining room is closed. While the pandemic has cratered the SpringHouse’s catering business, store sales for other items are up.

“Most aspects of the business are the same or better,” George said. “Because of the unique way we (serve meals), it’s stayed the same.”

But the Springhouse lost something else over the past three weeks, according to fellow employee Kathy Dice. She said the sense of community that is enjoyed by many regular customers who have lunch or a cup of coffee in the dining room has been missing during the entire pandemic.

“They’re scared to come out. They’re scared of (the virus),” Dice said. “This is like a country store. Everyone’s family. That’s all gone. “

She said many people used to come visit after church or families and would enjoy big lunches to spend time visiting.

“It’s a family gathering place here,” she said. “It’s just changed so much. What can you do?”

Sampson noted that his restaurant and many others like it in Uniontown bind together a town. So he’s looking forward to a time after the pandemic is over when people can gather inside to enjoy a meal with friends and family.

“It’s cool to provide that kind of place for families in our community,” Sampson said. “Many other restaurants are similar. They’re fixtures for many families, and we don’t want to see that die. We take a lot of pride in that.”

That also why Finnegan is looking forward to reconnecting to longtime regulars when Harry’s Pizza and restaurants across the state reopen for in-person dining Monday.

“We love our customers,” she said. “We can’t wait just to see people. Now that I think of it, I’m getting excited.”



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