The US will investigate “unacceptable” cancellations by Southwest Airlines
Severe winter weather has caused thousands of flights to be cancelled across the US over the last several days. The vast majority of those were operated by a single airline: Southwest. Read more……
In a statement, the airline blamed “consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network” that left staff and airplanes stranded. Bob Jordan, Southwest’s CEO, told the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 26 that “this is the largest scale event that I’ve ever seen.”
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With so many last-minute changes, the airlines’ staff scheduling system couldn’t keep up to find the right people in the right places at the right times, Jordan said. Over the next few days, he added, the airline will continue to operate a reduced schedule with the aim of getting its people and planes back to where they need to be.
Scheduling issues aren’t new at Southwest. Staff attrition and burnout have been building at the airline for several years. And Southwest, unlike most major US airlines, doesn’t concentrate its operations around a few big hub airports. Instead, it typically keeps its aircraft and staff widely distributed, which can be efficient when the weather is good—but cause the network to quickly collapse when it’s not.