RENO, Nev. (775 Times, NV Globe) – Following a recent schedule reduction of roughly two-thirds, including the cancellation of an additional 2,350 flights on Thursday, Southwest Airlines said it anticipates returning to regular operations on Friday.
Following a winter storm that left hundreds of pilots and flight attendants stranded and unable to operate flights, Southwest is still working to recover.
More than 1 million travelers have probably been impacted. More than 13,000 flights have been canceled by Southwest since the crisis started on December 22. Its aircraft contain between 143 and 175 seats, and during Christmas and New Year’s, they were probably almost completely filled.
Other airlines are operating at full capacity. According to flight tracker FlightAware, Delta, American, and United collectively cancelled over 30 flights by late morning.
58% of Southwest’s scheduled cancellations occurred, which is a little improvement over earlier days. On Thursday, more than 95% of all canceled flights in the US were operated by the Dallas carrier.
The fact that 98% of Southwest’s planes that took off on Thursday managed to land within 15 minutes of schedule and so met the government’s definition of an on-time arrival was pretty much the only good news for passengers.
Southwest has admitted that its antiquated and insufficient technology puts flight pilots at a disadvantage when inclement weather occurs.
The airline has turned off attempts to make management accessible for comment, and it hasn’t posted a website operation update. Posting video announcements by its chief commercial officer and CEO Robert Jordan has been its principal method of reaching out to the public.
Just 11 months after Jordan replaced longstanding CEO Gary Kelly as CEO, he is facing a crisis. When Jordan joined Southwest 35 years ago, there were 88 aircraft and 7,000 personnel. At this time, it employs more than 60,000 people and has more than 700 planes.
A easygoing and jovial Jordan praised the airline’s culture and customer service when speaking to reporters at Southwest’s Dallas headquarters a month earlier. He listed five goals, one of which was to update the technology used by the airline to schedule pilots and flight attendants.
“I do think the scale and the growth of the airline got ahead of the tools that we have,” he said. “No fault of anybody — takes investment — and we’ll get all this done.”
Jordan didn’t provide a date or cost for the expenditure or provide an explanation for why the airline hadn’t already completed the task. However, his remarks on the airline’s antiquated crew-scheduling system appeared to foretell one of the key causes of the present crisis — the failure to get pilots and flight attendants in position when there is a disturbance to the operation.
“We have a lot of crews moving all over the country,” he said then. “If they get reassigned — they need to go to a different city or different flight than they thought, or they get reassigned to a new hotel — somebody needs to call them or basically in the airport chase them down and tell them what their re-route looks like.
“So at our size and scale, that’s just not OK.”
What occurred at Southwest is being looked at by the federal authorities.
Southwest updated their website with a page dedicated to stranded passengers and asked users to submit receipts for unforeseen costs. Between December 24 and January 2, the airline said it will take into account paying “fair” costs for food, lodging, and substitute transportation. The word “reasonable” was attacked by consumer groups as being overly ambiguous.
This week, Southwest’s phone system was overloaded, making it impossible for thousands of consumers to contact the airline. Additionally, hours-long wait times were recorded by pilots and flight attendants.
Investors seem to believe that Southwest is finally managing the situation. The stock price of the corporation increased by more than 3%, although it is still down 8% for the week.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and some members of Congress are demanding that Southwest pay stranded travelers for hotel rooms, meals, and replacement flights they booked on other airlines. The airline has not provided an estimate for how much revenue it has lost and how much additional cost it will incur.
Southwest said that an interruption in October 2021 cost it $75 million, providing one idea of the price tag. The number of planes canceled during the much smaller meltdown—which lasted for four days—was around 2,000. Southwest’s response both then and now was to reduce its schedule in order to stabilize the business.
Southwest has been the most successful American airline so far this year, with a net income of $759 million through September.
Savanthi Syth, an aviation analyst at Raymond James, stated on Thursday that although she still anticipates a little profit for the firm in the fourth quarter, some travelers would probably start using other airlines in the coming months instead of Southwest.
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