Why Southwest’s Holiday Operations Went South - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Why Southwest’s Holiday Operations Went South

Missing luggage, missing flights, and, in many cases, missing Christmas: these are all pains Southwest Airlines customers endured over the past week. 

Many are calling out Southwest for its unprecedented volume of flight cancellations, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who asserted that the system has “completely melted down.”

Videos of abandoned luggage circled the internet, livid customers sounded off on Twitter, and the Biden administration has even vowed to hold the airline accountable.

Information board displays delayed or canceled flights at San Jose International airport in San Jose, California, on Dec. 23, 2022 (Michael Vi/Shutterstock)

Information board displays delayed or canceled flights at San Jose International airport in San Jose, California, on Dec. 23, 2022 (Michael Vi/Shutterstock)

So, why did this happen? Why did Southwest account for more than 90 percent of Wednesday’s flight cancellations, according to FlightAware

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan explained some of the reasons for the failures in a video statement. 

He pointed toward the weather as one of the largest factors that brought about the cancellations. 

“Cities where large numbers of scheduled flights simultaneously froze as record bitter cold brought challenges for all airlines,” Jordan said. 

Some employees have also spoken out, attributing the failures to more than just bad weather. 

Captain Casey Murray, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said these issues are systematically ingrained in the whole airline. 

“We’ve been having these issues for the past 20 months,” he told CNN. “We’ve seen these sorts of meltdowns occur on a much more regular basis and it really just has to do with outdated processes and outdated IT.”

Jordan also acknowledged the need to update Southwest’s technology. 

“The tools we use to recover from disruption serve us well, 99 percent of the time,” he said. “But clearly, we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what’s happening right now.”

This is not the first time that Southwest has drawn criticism for excessive flight cancellations.

Southwest Airlines blamed air traffic control issues and weather for the thousands of flights canceled in October of 2021, even though the Federal Aviation Administration did not report any air traffic control shortages that weekend, NPR reported

Though the weather may have been a trigger for both October 2021 and last week’s cancellation sagas, larger technical roots must be to blame, asserted the vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, Capt. Mike Santoro.

“What went wrong is that our IT infrastructure for scheduling software is vastly outdated,” Santoro said. “It can’t handle the number of pilots, flight attendants that we have in the system, with our complex route network.”

Getting to the real causes of the meltdown will hopefully prevent future crises. But answers aren’t enough for the Americans who lost their money, time, and holiday joy as a result of booking with Southwest.


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