Southwest Fined $140 Million Over Cancellations In 2022

Southwest Boeing 737 departing from Las Vegas as the airline has been fined 140 million from the department of transportation following the operational meltdown during Storm Elliot in 2022

Major carrier Southwest has been fined 140 million following the U.S. Department Of Transportation ruling over the company’s 2022 operational meltdown.

Southwest Learns Its Fate

A fine in the region of USD 140 million is substantially higher than the average; however, it is what key officials within the United States call essential.

Southwest’s mammoth operational meltdown that impacted many customers’ travel was disastrous for the industry at a crucial time.

Thus, a hefty fine sets an example that this kind of thing isn’t to be accepted and that consequences will come down on those who fail to serve their customer base adequately and fairly.

Interestingly, as part of the ruling made by the Department of Transportation, a USD 75 flight credit will be applied to customers if arrival is delayed more than three hours. However, this is only applicable if reasons are within Southwest’s control.

Southwest says it is pleased it reached a “consumer-friendly settlement” and moved past the disruption it says was caused by Storm Elliot.

What Happened At Southwest

Following the emergence of Storm Elliot towards the latter stages of 2022, Southwest’s operations were hampered significantly, and they were forced to cancel thousands of flights.

Additionally, the airline noted that issues with its scheduling meant it could not fulfil its operations adequately.

According to FlightAware, on 28 December 2022, the airline cancelled 71% of its flying schedule, representing many customers impacted.

However, the handling of the problem on the part of Southwest resulted in more uproar as it became a far more significant problem with lines, miscommunication and a lack of transparency handed down from executives.

As a result, employees who were pressured and understaffed at airports nationwide could not help their passengers sufficiently.

The aftermath saw some passengers unable to be rebooked on flights during the holiday period, followed by a lack of compensation. However, it would ultimately be revealed more than a storm caused these issues.

A Deeper Rooted Problem At Southwest

Undoubtedly, Storm Elliot was a critical catalyst for why Southwest’s operations went haywire. However, further analysis identified a far more deep-rooted problem.

Southwest’s dated system was highlighted as an essential consideration when understanding what had taken place across the peak travel season and what caused a massive collapse.

An airline must have an adequate working system for ease of day-to-day operations. However, a sound-run system would prove essential in situations like Storm Elliot.

It was found that Southwest’s systems had needed an overhaul for some time. However, the company neglected these due to the substantial costs that would be incurred. This executive decision aligned with a model where saving money was prioritised. However, the string ultimately ran out, and Storm Elliot substantially brought down the outdated systems.

Comments From Executives

We have spent the past year acutely focused on efforts to enhance the Customer Experience with significant investments and initiatives that accelerate operational resiliency, enhance cross-team collaboration and bolster overall preparedness for winter operations. Our commitment to Customers has been central to our success across our 52-year history and has helped us become one of the world’s most admired and trusted airlines.

Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines President & Chief Executive Officer

To Conclude

The U.S. Department of Transportation fined Southwest USD 140 million following an investigation into their operational meltdown in 2022.

Additionally, the company has been informed to introduce new policies that focus on compensation for customers that delays caused by Southwest have impacted.

Overall, the substantial fine handed down was done with a view of using Southwest as an example that this type of collapse is unacceptable and cannot happen again.

Daniel Fowkes
19 Dec 2023
· Airlines 

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