Southwest CEO unveils steps to avoid repeat of mass holiday cancelations

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700
Greg Nash
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 lands at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, February 23, 2023.

Southwest Airlines unveiled plans on Tuesday to increase staffing and equipment this winter to avoid another mess of mass cancellations and delays like the one that disrupted holiday travel late last year. 

“We understand the root causes that led to the holiday disruption, and we’re validating our internal review with the third-party assessment. Now, we expect to mitigate the risk of an event of this magnitude ever happening again,” said Southwest President and CEO Bob Jordan in a statement.

“Work is well underway implementing action items to prepare for next winter — with some items already completed … We’re resolved to emerge an even stronger airline,” Jordan said.

Thousands of flights were canceled over the December holidays amid winter storm conditions, but Southwest made up a significant share of the cancellations and came under scrutiny over scheduling issues that have caused problems at the airline for years.

The holiday flight disruptions cost Southwest millions, and the company estimates in a new filing that it will see a revenue hit of as much as $350 million in the first quarter 2023 “primarily isolated to January and February, associated with the December 2022 operational disruptions.”

Southwest’s new “three-part Tactical Action Plan” will modernize operations, enhance cross-team collaboration and address cold-weather operational challenges.

The company says it’s “purchasing additional deicing trucks; securing additional deicing pads and deicing fluid capacity at key network locations; and purchasing more engine covers and engine heaters for cold weather operations” and plans to “implement a new weather application to provide Crews with more real-time and dynamic weather indications.”

Winter staffing levels will be augmented and crew scheduling systems are set to be upgraded, according to Southwest.

Tags airline holiday travel Southwest

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