On Thursday, a hearing was held by the Senate Commerce Committee to discuss the operational failure that resulted in Southwest Airlines cancelling more than 16,000 flights at the end of December. Southwest‘s chief operating officer, Andrew Watterson, issued an apology for the flight cancellations, which disrupted the holiday travel plans of over 2 million passengers at the busiest travel time of the year. Read more below.
Southwest COO apologize for travel meltdown
During his testimony, Watterson stated, “Let me be clear: We messed up,” and he went on to say that the business is currently conducting “a system-wide evaluation of our preparedness for winter operations” in order to guarantee that a situation similar to the meltdown will not occur again.
According to Casey Murray, who serves as president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, “a cascade of events” was one of the factors that led to the overall demise of the firm. In his evidence, Murray stated, “It was an enormous disaster, from the very beginning to the very end.”
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Unrealistic scheduling of flights
During this time, the United States Department of Transportation is looking into the possibility that Southwest Airlines engaged in “unrealistic scheduling of flights.” The cancellations were described as “unacceptable” by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who was not present at the hearing.
Southwest Airlines has reported that it cancelled more than 16,700 flights from December 21 to December 31. The problems started because of severe winter weather all around the United States, but the airline company did not have the technology to keep up with the numerous flight changes.
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Loss of $800 Million
As a result, the airline company was forced to cancel most of its schedule for several days while it reorganised its operation. The disarray caused Southwest to post a deficit for the preceding quarter, which resulted in a loss of pretax earnings of $800 million.
In an interview with reporters that took place outside of the hearing on Thursday, Watterson revealed that executive bonuses for this year will be decreased as a direct result of the crisis. Southwest Airlines has been providing refunds to travellers as well as reimbursements for additional expenses such as flights on other airlines and hotel stays.
96% Reimbursement paid
These practises have cost the airline hundreds of millions of dollars. Watterson stated that the airline had paid out more than 96% of the reimbursement requests, and that the remaining ones had just lately been submitted. According to the CEO, the airline with headquarters in Dallas, which processes claims for reimbursement of out-of-pocket charges, has granted refunds and processed nearly all of the claims it has received.
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Software upgrade to be done
According to Watterson, Southwest will begin the process of upgrading the software on Friday that proposes how to reassign personnel to flights after disruptions in service. That software, which was made by General Electric, was unable to keep up with the quantity of adjustments that were necessary because of the storm. He stated that the airline has also increased the number of staff according to the number of planes in operation.
Cantwell questioned Watterson on whether or not Southwest had prepared for the storm of the worst possible scenario. He stated that they had planned by making an estimate of how many planes could be deiced, but those estimates “proved to be inaccurate for this storm.”
You can’t blame whether: Senate Commerce Committee
Southwest stated that the December interruptions began with a winter storm and snowballed when the company’s antiquated crew-scheduling technology failed. Southwest reported that the storm was the initial cause of the problems. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington and the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, stated that the weather alone cannot be held responsible for everything.
She stated, “We’re always going to have these weather events, and some of us believe that they’re going to grow more severe.” “We’re always going to have these weather occurrences.” “However, what we hope to accomplish is to establish a system that is prepared to deal with that.”