A severe winter storm that threw several feet of snow across much of America led to widespread flight cancellations over the Christmas holidays. By Monday, air travel was more or less back to normal — Except when vacation travel is booked with Southwest Airlines.
According to flight tracking website FlightAware, more than 90% of U.S. flight cancellations on Tuesday occurred in the Southwest. Southwest Airlines canceled 2,500 of his flights. The next highest is Spirit Airlines at 75.
Southwest Airlines has warned it will continue to cancel flights until operations are back on track. The company’s CEO said this was the biggest disruption he’d seen in his career.The Biden administration is investigating.
The airline told ABC News it was ready to start paying for hotels, meals and flights on other airlines.Travelers can click Here for more information.
‘It was devastating’: Southwest Airlines cancels thousands of flights nationwide
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The Southwest was a combination of bad luck and bad planning.
Storms have hit Chicago and Denver hard, and the Southwest has two of its largest hubs, Chicago Midway Airport and Denver International Airport.
Even worse: The so-called triple demic surged across America, storming in just as people and their families fell ill with Covid, the flu, and RSV. Southwest says it is well staffed for the holiday weekend, but the illness makes it difficult for it to adapt to the increased stress in the system. Many airlines do not have enough staff to recover if events such as bad weather cause delays or if crews use the maximum working hours allowed under federal safety regulations. is still lacking.
But Southwest has also hurt itself with an aggressive schedule and underinvestment in the business.
Southwest Airlines’ schedule includes short flights with short durations, which is causing some problems, FlightAware spokesperson Kathleen Bangs told CNN.
“Those turnaround times keep things bogged down,” Bangs said.
Stuck customers were unable to reach Southwest Airlines’ customer service line to rebook flights or find lost luggage.
Employees also said they have not been in touch with the airline, the president of the union representing Southwest flight attendants told CNN on Monday.
Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556, told CNN’s Pamela Brown: “It’s not staffed enough to give flight attendants a rescheduling, which is creating a ripple effect and causing chaos across the country.”
The problems facing Southwest Airlines have been going on for a long time, said Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.
“We’ve had these issues for the last 20 months,” he told CNN. It has to do with outdated processes and outdated IT.”
He said airline operations haven’t changed much since the 1990s.
“It’s the phone, it’s the computer, it’s the processing power, it’s the programs that are used to connect us to the plane.
In a message to employees obtained by CNN, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan acknowledged many of Murray’s concerns and promised the company would invest in better systems.
“Part of what we struggle with is the lack of tools,” Jordan told employees. “We have had so many conversations about modernizing operations and the need for it.”
He said the airlines are “committed and invested” in improving the system, but “we need to be able to produce solutions more quickly.”
The US Department of Transportation said it was investigating.
“USDOT is concerned about Southwest Airlines’ unacceptable cancellation and delay rates. & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the agency tweeted.
A spokesperson sent the following statement to ABC affiliate KTRK:
“Southwest Airlines’ cancellation and delay rates are unacceptable and dramatically higher than other U.S. airlines. (Tuesday) Secretary Buttigieg spoke with the CEO of Southwest Airlines in the afternoon to ensure the airline is keeping its promises. This includes providing meal vouchers, refunds and hotel accommodations to passengers who experience material delays or cancellations as a result of Southwest Airlines’ decisions and actions. Southwest Airlines, like all airlines, is also obligated to provide cash refunds to flight passengers. , told him that many flight attendants and pilots were stranded with passengers and had to sleep in cribs or book their own hotel rooms. I have told the CEO that Southwest expects the pilots and flight attendants to do the right thing in these situations, nts–and all workers–. If we fail to do so, we will take steps to hold them accountable and maintain our relationship with Southwest Airlines to ensure that such a situation does not occur again.”
To recover, Jordan told The Wall Street Journal that he plans to operate just over a third of the schedule over the next few days to ensure his crew can get into position. rice field.
Not Southwest’s First Rodeo
If all this is ringing a bell, it’s because this isn’t the first time Southwest service has collapsed in spectacular fashion.In October 2021, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights in four days. , suffered a loss of $75 million.
Southwest blamed a service meltdown on a combination of bad Florida weather, temporary problems with local air traffic control, and a lack of available staff to adapt to those problems. Even before thousands of flights were canceled and hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded, it acknowledged service problems caused by understaffing.
As with the service turmoil this month, Southwest fared far worse than its competitors last October. Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights in the days following his October peak of turmoil, but competitors quickly returned to normal service.
Later that month, in a call with Wall Street analysts, then-CEO Gary Kelly said the company had made adjustments to prevent similar meltdowns in the future.
“We are curtailing capacity planning to adapt to the current staffing environment, and our on-time performance has improved accordingly,” Kelly said on Oct. 21. 2019 and is now more than halfway to that goal. “
And similar to the recent turmoil, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association claimed the cancellation was due to “poor planning by management.”
— CNN’s Ross Levitt contributed to this report
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