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Southwest CEO Issues Dire Warning: ‘Another Tough Day’ Ahead as Cancellations Persist

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December 27, 2022 | Kali Girl

According to CNN, a major winter storm caused widespread flight cancellations across America over the Christmas holiday, with Southwest Airlines being hit the hardest. Approximately 87% of Tuesday’s flight cancellations in the US were Southwest flights, with the company canceling over 2,500 flights. Spirit Airlines had the second highest number of cancellations with 83.

Southwest has warned that it will continue to cancel flights until it can get its operations back on track, with the company’s CEO stating that this has been the biggest disruption he has seen in his career. The Biden administration is investigating the situation. It appears that Southwest was both unlucky and unprepared for the storm, which hit Chicago and Denver, two of its biggest hubs, at a time when the so-called tripledemic (Covid, flu, and RSV) was surging across the country.

Southwest claims to have been fully staffed for the holiday weekend, but illness can make it difficult to handle increased system stress. Many airlines still struggle with insufficient staffing, which can cause delays or flight crew hour limit violations during events like bad weather.

“The phone system the company uses is just not working,” Lyn Montgomery, President of TWU Local 556, told CNN’s Pamela Brown. “They’re just not manned with enough manpower in order to give the scheduling changes to flight attendants, and that’s created a ripple effect that is creating chaos throughout the nation.”

Southwest Airlines (LUV) has recently experienced service disruptions due to an aggressive schedule and underinvestment in operations. The airline’s schedule includes shorter flights with tighter turnaround times, which have caused issues and made it difficult for stranded customers to reach customer service to rebook flights or locate lost baggage. Employees have also reported difficulty in communicating with the airline.

This is not the first time Southwest has faced significant service issues; in October 2021, the airline canceled over 2,000 flights over a four-day period, costing the company $75 million. The service disruption was attributed to a combination of bad weather in Florida, temporary issues with air traffic control, and a shortage of available staff. Southwest struggled more than its competitors during this disruption, as other airlines were able to quickly return to normal service. The company’s then-CEO, Gary Kelly, later stated that adjustments had been made to prevent similar meltdowns in the future.

“We have reined in our capacity plans to adjust to the current staffing environment, and our ontime performance has improved, accordingly,” said Kelly on October 21. “We are aggressively hiring to a goal of approximately 5,000 new employees by the end of this year, and we are currently more than halfway toward that goal.”

In a statement, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association blamed the cancellations on “management’s poor planning,” adding to the list of disruptions that have plagued the airline industry in recent months.

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