Southwest expects to have its schedule fixed by Friday

Southwest Airlines is looking to restore its flight schedule by Friday after canceling more than 15,000 flights over the last week, potentially bringing relief to stranded holiday travelers. 

The airline said in a statement that it plans to “return to normal operations with minimal disruptions” on Friday.

Southwest noted that it set up a website for customers to submit refund and reimbursement requests.

“We know even our deepest apologies – to our customers, to our employees, and to all affected through this disruption – only go so far,” Southwest said in a statement.

The airline has scheduled just 39 cancellations for Friday, according to data from flight tracking website FlightAware, after shutting down nearly 2,400 flights on Thursday and 2,500 on Wednesday.

Southwest’s archaic scheduling systems went haywire after winter storms hit its hubs in Denver and Chicago, making it difficult to route pilots and flight attendants to the right planes.

The airline was forced to cancel nearly two-thirds of its flights for much of the week to restore stability. 

“A systemic failure of Southwest Airlines leaders to modernize, support, and staff its operation leaves every frontline employee, pilots included, tired of apologizing to our passengers,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said in a statement Wednesday. 

The meltdown, which has disrupted the holiday plans of millions, has drawn federal scrutiny from prominent lawmakers and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has pledged to ensure that stranded travelers are reimbursed for unexpected food, travel and lodging costs.

“We’ve never seen a situation, at least not on my watch, with this volume of disruptions, so this is going to take an extraordinary level of effort by Southwest. And we will mount an extraordinary effort to make sure that they’re meeting their obligations,” Buttigieg said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan issued a video apology Wednesday and acknowledged that the airline must update its scheduling systems.

“The tools we use to recover from disruption serve us well 99 percent of the time, 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,” Jordan said.

Updated at 1:54 p.m.

Tags Cancellations meltdown Pete Buttigieg refunds southwest airlines stranded

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