Southwest Airlines cancels thousands of flights after snowstorm

TECHNOLOGY
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The winter storm that disrupted thousands of travel plans over the weekend created an epic pile of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines, leaving thousands of families stranded, some waiting days to return home.

Two-thirds of Southwest flights were canceled as of Monday afternoon, according to flight tracking website FlightAware — far more than any other airline. With about 2,700 Southwest flights canceled, another 700 were delayed on Monday, according to FlightAware.

As of Monday afternoon, the board at Dallas Love Field, the airline’s main hub, showed that all arrivals had been canceled, according to reporter Kelly Laco.

The airline canceled more than 1,600 flights on Sunday and 1,300 a day last week, Thursday and Friday.

Traveler Michael Bauzon and his family planned to leave Orlando International Airport on Friday to return home to Indianapolis in time for Christmas on Sunday. Instead, the four vacationed at a hotel after their flight was cancelled, Bauzon told CBS affiliate WKMG, and returned to the airport on Monday — where they continued to wait.

“This morning we got here at 4:30 am for a 7:05 am flight, looked it up and, oh, it had just been cancelled,” he said, pointing to a queue snaking in front of the Southwest service desk. “It’s a four to five hour queue… before they can get us on a flight – if they can get us on a flight,” he said.

Widespread storm, outdated technology

In a statement on Monday that began with “sincere apologies,” Southwest said its geography made it “uniquely” vulnerable to the storm, with half the airports it flies to affected by winter weather.

“We were fully staffed and prepared for the upcoming holiday weekend when bad weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 US travel markets. scheduling flights at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to get the airline back operating at capacity,” the statement said.

“We anticipate further changes with an already reduced level of flights as we approach the upcoming New Year holiday period,” he noted.

The company also blames the lack of technology. “Part of what we’re suffering from is the lack of tools. We’ve talked a lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that,” CEO Bob Jordan said in an internal message Sunday, carried by multiple media outlets. outlets and the union of flight attendants.

Telephone lines, congested systems

Southwest steered customers away from congested phone lines, noting it was experiencing “system issues” amid heightened demand.

Spokesman Chris Perry said the airline’s online booking and check-in systems were still working but were also congested because of “abnormally high” volumes of traffic to its website. “We are accommodating as many customers as possible based on available space,” he told CBS News.

While Southwest blamed technology issues, the flight attendants union, Transit Workers Union 556, accused the airline of contributing to the problem by not investing in technology for years.

“The lack of technology has left the airline dependent on manual solutions and personal phone calls, leaving flight attendants on hold with Southwest Airlines for up to 17 hours at a time simply to be released to return home after travel, or while trying to secure a hotel room or find out where their next trip will be,” the union said in a statement. “While re-routings and rescheduling are understood to be part of the job in the airline industry, the sheer scale of the failure in recent days points to an evasion of responsibility over many years to invest and implement technology that could help solve many of the problems that plague both flight attendants and passengers.”

The union and the airline have been in contractual negotiations for four years.

— With reporting by Zel Elvi and Kathryn Krupnik🇧🇷

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