Last week's winter weather travel mess is lingering like a vicious hangover into this week, and the headaches have been migraine-proportioned for Southwest Airlines. According to flight tracking website FlightAware, more than 3,900 flights within, into or out of the US had already been canceled by 10:50 p.m. ET on Monday and almost 8,200 flights had been delayed. Southwest Airlines customers reported being stranded by canceled flights they booked to see loved ones over the holiday season. Roughly 2,700 flights were cancelled in light of the unpredictable conditions, which airline officials apologized for—saying the weather was too risky to ride through.
WTOC confirmed Southwest Airlines did NOT cancel *all of its flights here. Savannah Hilton Head Int'l Airport says these delays and cancelations are inevitable given what’s happened in other parts of the country.
Statement from Southwest Airlines below:
With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable.
And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.
We’re working with Safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning Crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us.
We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S. These operational conditions forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity.
This safety-first work is intentional, ongoing, and necessary to return to normal reliability, one that minimizes last-minute inconveniences. We anticipate additional changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the coming New Year holiday travel period. And we’re working to reach to Customers whose travel plans will change with specific information and their available options.
Our Employees and Crews scheduled to work this holiday season are showing up in every single way. We are beyond grateful for that. Our shared goal is to take care of every single Customer with the Hospitality and Heart for which we’re known. On the other side of this, we’ll work to make things right for those we’ve let down, including our Employees.
With no concern higher than ultimate Safety, the People of Southwest share a goal to take care of each and every Customer. We recognize falling short and sincerely apologize.
Here are some TV news stories on this nightmare:
from iHeart Airline Anaylist Jay Ratliff:
This is not the Southwest of old.
This holiday season the operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines has created a mess for travelers so bad from coast to coast the Department of Transportation (DOT) has ordered an investigation. Passengers, pilots, and flight attendants are stranded and are being forced to sleep in airports as the airline struggles to get a handle on the situation.
It has never been this bad for Southwest or their passengers.
On Monday Southwest cancelled 71% of their flights during the busy holiday travel season which represented 2,909 flights affecting more than 435,000 passengers. By comparison, American Airlines (who operates nearly 5,000 flights a day) cancelled less than 1% of their flights - or just 12 departures.
On Monday passengers were notified Southwest would not have any available seats until Thursday or Friday and the airline will operate roughly 50% of their scheduled flights through the week as they desperately try to regain control of their operation.
The reasons for the meltdown at Southwest can be attributed to three reasons and the first starts with the pandemic. During the early stages of the pandemic, when the demand for travel dropped by 95%, the airline offered enticing early retirement packages to senior employees and more than 21% of the experienced workforce left. These men and women were replaced by individuals who were far less competent and that lack of experience is exposed during a historic weather event as we had this week.
The other issue is a lack of proper tools to get the job done. Southwest management has for years refused to modernize many of their computer systems forcing employees to do things manually. When you have the number of operational issues going wrong as they have had this week it is nearly impossible to keep up with everything from a manual standpoint and the chaos of the week certainly reflects that.
The third contributing cause is the lack of communication from the airline to passengers. The reservation center was so inundated with calls it caused the phone system to crash - meaning no agents could be reached.
The million dollar question is when will Southwest recover?
At this point normal operations for Southwest Airlines may not resume until 2023, or after January 1st. With every departure filled between now and next Monday options for agents to accommodate stranded passengers are few and far between. The demand for travel drops after January 1st and only then will the airline have the available seats to accommodate the thousands of passengers who, by then, will still be scrambling to reach their destination.
The DOT will more than likely issue a hefty fine against the airline and passengers will swear to never fly the airline again. Yet, in time loyal passengers will return and business will resume at the normal pace - until we have another severe weather event.