NEW YORK, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Five days after severe winter weather wreaked havoc on holiday air travel across the United States, most major carriers are back up and running, but at Southwest Airlines it was a very different story, reported The New York Times on Thursday.
More than 2,500 flights, or 62 percent of its planned flights on Wednesday, were canceled, according to FlightAware. And Southwest said in a statement on Wednesday that it planned to fly one third of its scheduled flights for the next several days as it tries to return to normal operations, meaning it would continue to cancel close to 2,500 flights a day.
Southwest uses a "point-to-point" route model that often lets passengers fly directly from smaller cities and regions without having to stop at a central hub like Denver or New York. Point-to-point flights cut travel times by eliminating the intermediate stop -- typically a big advantage for travelers who are not flying from major metro areas, said the report.
Other large carriers like United and American rely on a "hub-and-spoke" model in which planes typically fly from smaller cities to a hub airport where passengers change planes. With a hub system, there's a ready pool of crew members and pilots who can report to work at a major airport.
By the point-to-point method, "Southwest's cancellations created a giant snowball effect that rippled across its carefully choreographed network, leaving planes and crews scattered across the country," analysts were quoted as saying.
Because Southwest is the largest airline in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the United States, when the severe weather led to many canceled flights, it resulted in airplanes and crew members being out of position in dozens of cities, it noted. ■