Southwest promises changes after holiday travel chaos. Here’s the plan

Massive disruptions began on Dec. 22 through end-of-year holidays

ORLANDO, Fla. – After a large amount of cancelations and delays over the holidays, Southwest Airlines is promising its customers changes to avoid the same issues in the future.

Thousands of Southwest flights during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday were canceled.

The massive disruptions began Dec. 22 with a winter storm, and snowballed when Southwest’s ancient crew-scheduling technology was overwhelmed, leaving crews and planes out of position to operate flights. It took the airline eight days to recover.

Now, president and CEO Bob Jordan is reassuring customers there will be plans in place to avoid the chaos seen at the end of 2022.

“Emerging from some of the most challenging days in our Company’s history, we are highly focused on our Customers, our recovery, and our plan going forward. Our immediate task has been to stabilize our operation, and we are pleased to report that since the disruptions, we’ve operated our expected flight schedule with the Southwest® Reliability that we’ve upheld for 51 years,” he wrote in a letter to members.

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Jordan outlined three actions the airline is putting in place:

  • Establishing supplemental operational staffing that can quickly mobilize to support Crew recovery efforts
  • Enhancing our Crew engagement technology to efficiently communicate with large numbers of Crew Members during frequent schedule changes
  • Updating and upgrading our Crew recovery system to not only solve current and future schedules, but also provide the ability to optimize established schedules as we revise them during irregular operations

The CEO also said Southwest hired a third-party global aviation consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, to review the holiday chaos and make recommendations for the future.

“We fell short of your expectations and the high standards we have of ourselves, and for that we are deeply sorry. It is our steadfast commitment to make the necessary changes to address the issues we faced and to regain your trust and confidence. We will continue down our path of providing you the exceptional service you expect and deserve from us,” Jordan wrote.

Southwest is giving 25,000 frequent-flyer points to customers whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, and seems to be making progress on refunds, but executives concede it will take many weeks to process the reimbursement requests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.