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Southwest cancels more than half of DIA flights Wednesday and Thursday

At one point 10,000 unattended bags were sitting at Denver's airport but that number appears to be dropping.

DENVER — Hundreds of Southwest Airlines flights are canceled both Wednesday and Thursday at Denver International Airport (DIA) as the airline reduces its schedule in an effort to get back on track.

In a video that Southwest posted late Tuesday, CEO Robert Jordan said Southwest they hoped to be "back on track before next week.”

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Southwest had canceled 292 flights at DIA, which is more than half of the airline's scheduled flights, according to FlightAware. Among all airlines, there were 373 cancelations at DIA.

Nationwide, 2,507 Southwest flights have been canceled Wednesday, and 2,348 have already been canceled Thursday. The airline has canceled 272 DIA flights for Thursday.

Many airlines were forced to cancel flights due to the weather, but Southwest was by far the leader in canceled flights.

Southwest's CEO eventually apologized to passengers and employees for the "unacceptable" situation.

Jordan blamed the winter storm for snarling the airline’s “highly complex” network. He said Southwest's tools for recovering from disruptions work “99% of the time, but clearly we need to double down" on upgrading systems to avoid a repeat of this week.

“We have some real work to do in making this right,” said Jordan, a 34-year Southwest veteran who became CEO in February. “For now, I want you to know that we are committed to that.”

In many cases, stranded passengers were told it would be at least three or four days before they could be rebooked on another Southwest flight.

As of 5 a.m. on Monday, DIA said that there were around 10,000 unattended bags waiting to be claimed by Southwest passengers. DIA also said airlines are responsible for supervising baggage, and that the airport just provides the space. 9NEWS reporter Courtney Yuen has been at the airport over the past few days and reported Wednesday that she's observed fewer unattended bags.

Southwest said it set up a webpage for customers who are trying to rebook their flight or request a refund: southwest.com/traveldisruption

The airline is also encouraging customers to use self-service options to get the quickest results.

RELATED: More than 60% of all Southwest flights canceled Tuesday and Wednesday

Southwest spokesman Jay McVay said at a press conference in Houston that cancelations snowballed as storm systems moved across the country, leaving flight crews and planes out of place.

“So we’ve been chasing our tails, trying to catch up and get back to normal safely, which is our number one priority as quickly as we could,” he said. "And that’s exactly how we ended up where we are today.”

RELATED: Southwest at center of DIA flight delays, cancellations Monday

 About 4,000 domestic U.S. flights were canceled Monday, according to the tracking website FlightAware, and 2,900 of those were Southwest, which was about 71% of its flights Monday.

Of the 471 canceled flights at DIA on Monday, 420 of were Southwest. The next most canceled flights at DIA were United with 24. 

Other major airlines, including American, United, Delta and JetBlue, suffered cancellations rates of between none and 2% Tuesday. The cancelation rate at Southwest Airlines was 62%, according to FlightAware, after the airline canceled more that 70% of its flights Monday.

RELATED: Here's what experts say you should do when your flight gets canceled

Southwest said it is experiencing a high number of calls and social media messages, and passengers in need of assistance with their flight booking were encouraged to explore self-service options.

The line to rebook a flight was more than three hours long most of the day on Monday. That line was noticeably shorter on Tuesday, but people were still waiting 1-2 hours to get to the counter. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday night it will be examining whether Southwest could've done more to prevent the massive number of flight cancellations on the day after Christmas. 

"USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service," the agency said in a tweet. "The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan."

As for people's luggage, Southwest said customers can choose to have their bags delivered to them free of charge. It said their team will be reaching out to customers over the coming days to arrange that. 

But, some customers wanted to see if they could find their luggage in the sea of suitcases at baggage claim 1 inside DIA. 

"Just to let you know people are sneaking in over there," said Jill Devereaux, to a Southwest employee. "There's like no security."

She was searching for her bags from a flight that never left Denver. 

Southwest employees were making announcements over the intercom, explaining to customers that bags were still headed to their final destination, despite flights being canceled.  

"We looked all day Sunday, looking today," she said. 

She waited in line three hours on Sunday to file a baggage claim. She was hoping her luggage stayed in Denver after her flight to Boise was canceled on Friday. 

Jaafar Bahraini is in a similar situation. 

"Everyone's going through it so you can't get mad but you're sad," he said. "You try to get helped and the line hasn't moved in 40 minutes. You just feel hopeless about it you know?"

Bahraini and his family made it all the way to their gate, when their flight to San Jose was canceled. 

"I was with my one-year-old son and my wife and we just couldn't take it any longer," he said. 

After waiting in long lines all day on Monday, he came back to do it all again on Tuesday. 

But there is hope for some Southwest travelers. 

"We're just keeping our fingers crossed," said Alex Smith. "Our flight is coming from Houston so we've just been watching that flight and it just gets delayed and delayed and delayed."

Smith and his wife were tightly holding onto their luggage until the very last minute, so their bags didn't get lost if their flight gets canceled. 

"I'm sure there's plenty of time to talk about all the things Southwest could have done later, but right now we just want to get on a plane," he said. 

They looked at booking with another airline.

"They started at about $700," said Smith. "Some of them I saw going up over $1,500."

They are just hoping that today, they'll be one of the lucky ones. 

"I hope they fix their computer system because it seems like this is a technical issues that could have totally been avoided," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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