Why Southwest Cancelled Thousands Of Flights

Daniel Fowkes
19 Dec 2023
· Analysis 

The aviation industry never sleeps, and those words couldn’t be more ushered during this festive period with the catastrophic meltdown of Southwest—one of the U.S.’ most essential and flown airlines.

Southwest Impacted By Storm Elliot

A system-wide computer outage, as best described, sparked the beginnings of the crisis. It meant that Southwest was unable to complete routine operations.

Days prior, a severe winter storm made its way through the U.S., also causing travel chaos. So, the events involving Southwest couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Unfortunately, thousands of flights were cancelled. According to FlightAware, only yesterday (Tuesday, 28th, December), they cancelled 71% of their schedule. 

A winter storm and minor scheduling issues were what Southwest labelled as the initial cause of the operational meltdown.

It ultimately became a far more significant problem with airport lines and hub miscommunication. It left Southwest staff inundated and unable to cope with the important issues that were being faced.

In some instances, passengers faced zero compensation. At the same time, others could not rebook onto flights during the holiday travel period. With transparency during these periods, it became apparent that Southwest was not providing that to customers.

Southwest Boeing 737

As a result, customers affected were clueless, with flights cancelled without notice. 

A More Deep Rooted Issue Presents Itself

The issue is far more deep-rooted than a simple systems crash. Outstanding investigations and pieces highlight Southwest’s dated system, which is used, and any pressures can lead to a complete system-wide failure.

It is imperative to have technology in place that is suitable and robust in case of any problems that arise. In the case of Storm Elliot, while it would’ve been catastrophic, regardless of whether a suitable system had been in place, it wouldn’t have taken down the entire airline.

In the case of Southwest, this highlighted that even one minor hiccup can send an airline spiralling out of control. CNN’s analysis indicated that the systems had needed an overhaul for some time, and Southwest is only to blame for such a thing. In December 2023, a USD 140 million fine was handed down by the United States Department of Transportation.

Staff shortages are another area worth examining. This all comes following the unfortunate reality of executives’ decision to offload staff during the pandemic and demand return quicker than expected, which left them playing catch up.

Southwest is understaffed,d and employees are currently working under pressure.

Despite an operational meltdown, Southwest eluded to crucial issues inside the company, only heightening the criticism they’re facing.

Southwest The Topic Of More Problems In 2021

While Southwest makes headlines now, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time the U.S. carrier has been featured for the wrong reasons.

In 2021, Southwest was forced to cancel thousands of flights. Bad weather was initially outlined as the cause for the cancellations. However, later, the airline admitted that staff shortages were the key catalyst.

As reported by many reputable publications, it was the beginning of a much bigger problem at the airline. Also, one felt widely across the industry.

Airlines were seen to have removed too many employees while downsizing, and now they can’t keep up. Moreover, airlines can’t get people to return to the industry without offering attractive pay or benefits.

Southwest Fined USD 140 Million

The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined Southwest USD 140 million following a ruling over their lack of adequate customer care during a crucial travel period.

Watch the Youtube video on GlobeTrotting at Dj’s Aviation.

Leave a Reply

  1. Southwest Airlines is people’s favorite airline to fly because of affordable fares and destinations. So I think it’s can happen to any other airlines not just Southwest.

    1. Post

      It can 100% happen to any airline, that’s for sure. However, there are many contributing factors. As per insiders and employees at Southwest, this has been a long time coming, thanks to the currently used technology and systems. You’re right, it comes with the business model and risks associated. Thanks for your support!

  2. Pingback: Southwest Crisis To Cost 800+ Million - Dj's Aviation

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