Union blasts Southwest: ‘Leadership shortcomings’ have led to ‘repeated system disruptions’

The Southwest Airlines pilots union suggested the carrier’s mass flight disruptions were preventable, blaming the issues on “leadership shortcomings” that did not update the airline’s outdated scheduling software.

Southwest Airlines has canceled thousands of flights in recent days, stretching beyond the recent winter storm that affected all airlines, leaving passengers stranded and drawing scrutiny from the federal government. 

“The impact of Southwest’s operational collapse being felt by passengers and crews over this holiday was not a surprise to anyone but the leadership of Southwest Airlines,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said in a statement. “It was unacceptable and the worst of the effects were absolutely preventable. ”

Southwest has canceled more than 2,000 flights on Thursday alone, marking another consecutive day in which the carrier canceled roughly 60 percent of its schedule.

The union called the disruptions a “systemic failure” and indicated the airline had outgrown its tools to withstand meteorological and technological disruptions.

The group placed much of the blame on Southwest’s crew scheduling software, suggesting it does not allow displaced crews to remain in constant contact with the company and fails to account for Southwest’s point-to-point network.

Many major airlines use a hub-and-spoke model in which passengers traveling from smaller markets often connect through major hub airports. 

Southwest’s operation enables the airline to offer many direct routes not operated by other carriers, but the leaner staff at individual airports makes it more difficult for Southwest to swap planes and crews when disruptions occur.

“For more than a decade, leadership shortcomings in adapting, innovating, and safeguarding our operations have led to repeated system disruptions, countless disappointed passengers, and millions in lost profits,” the union said.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan issued a video apology on Tuesday and said the company would “go above and beyond” to provide customers with refunds and help those who took expensive detours. 

“We’re doing everything we can to return to a normal operation, and please also hear that I am truly sorry,” he said.

Tags flight delays Southwest Airlines Union

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