Southwest Runs Out of De-Icing Fluid, Cancels 220 Flights in Chicago

Southwest Airlines was founded in Texas but its single biggest airport operation is at Chicago Midway. However they forgot that Chicago gets cold, and they ran out of de-icing fluid yesterday having to cancel the rest of the day’s flights — 220 in total.

“Throughout the storms, we’ve actively worked to manage our glycol levels (used to de-ice aircraft) but due to the severity of the winter weather Southwest has proactively canceled about 220 flights as of midday Sunday,” the representative wrote.

Additionally, in a response to a passenger question on Twitter about Midway, a Southwest representative wrote: “Due to having to de-ice many of our aircraft because of the weather, we are running low on de-icing fluid.”

“Flights have been cancelled due to Operational challenges due to the lack of deicing fluid in Midway,” the company also said on Twitter.

Southwest says today will operate normally.

As of this writing Southwest is leading in flight cancellations but only 3 are at Chicago-Midway. Presumably then there are many aircraft out of position due to yesterday’s cancellations. There’s also no precipitation.

This isn’t the first time this winter Southwest has had trouble de-icing planes, with significant delays after Christmas when cold weather “slow[ed] down crews in charge of de-icing the planes.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Are they using “weather” as an excuse and denying compensation to their passengers who depend on SWA to actually run the airplanes? I know that what United would do.

  2. Another news source said stranded travelers were “on their won” for hotel accomodations as SWA was claiming this was a “weather” issue. Yes–it does snow in Chicago in winter. An airplane operator does need to keep adequate inventories of deicing fluids at the ready. The snowfall over the past couple of weeks was not historic by any means. How can this be anything but the airline’s fault? Stranded travelers should be treated the same as if they had faced a “mechanical” cancellation (even if that treatment is often mediocre).

  3. Who’s managing the supplies over there??? Uh, hey guys, we’re down to 3 buckets of fluid left, someone run to the store and pick more up!

  4. Southwest cancelled my husband’s flight Sunday from Denver to Midway just as he was about to get on the plane. Supposedly their policy is to put you on the next available flight that has a seat. They told him all they had was a 7:30pm flight the following day, but when I called, the agent said there was a seat on a 9:30am flight and she booked him on that flight. He went to the ticket counter early to check in for that flight but he was told there was no record of him being on that flight. They put him on stand-by and kept on bumping him for “frequent flyer” passengers even though he paid almost $400 for a one-way ticket from Denver to Chicago.
    They didn’t give him any sort of voucher and left him stranded at the airport for 36 hours. If you ran out of de-icing fluid that isn’t weather related that is your employees not doing their job related. Which doesn’t surprise me as Southwest is the worst airline out there. The Southwest employees at the Denver airport do what they want with no regard to customers. I will never, ever fly this airline again, and will advise everyone I know against flying Southwest as they have no idea what they are doing and when they leave you stranded due to their negligence will not offer any type of good-will voucher. The do not care about their customers!!!!

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