Airline executives told employees in late September that operations had been stable since mid-August. On-time performance, disappointing in 62% June, more than 80% were backed up in September.
The pace was short-lived.
Southwest isolated again over the weekend, canceling more than 1,900 flights Saturday and Sunday. Feather Sunday, A busy fall and holiday weekend travel day, the airline canceled 30% of its flights, stranded passengers across the country. Cancellations on Monday were a fraction of weekend levels, but Southwest still led all carriers with cancellations, with more than 350.
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Five hour wait time, flight shopping and rental car rush:Southwest cancellations leave passengers scrambling
The airline on Friday blamed air traffic control issues and the weather in Florida, saying the effects of the wave left planes and crews out of place, and that it had little reserves to pick up the slack. Southwest caters to vacationers, and Florida is a key force in its operations.
Southwest and its pilot union have strongly denied that workers had quit to protest a federal Vaccine Mandate. (The pilots sued the airline for withholding the mandate.)
“It was a very rough weekend for many of you, and I’ve seen speculation over logic,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees in his first public remarks on the recession on Monday. “The fact that Florida’s weather on Friday and unforeseen ATC issues on Friday night resulted in delays and cancellations in our network, and it held us back.”
John Jagger, an analyst at aviation data firm Sirium, said a confluence of events paralyzed the southwest.
“They were caught in a perfect storm,” he said, citing staffing levels, weather and flight crew running out of time as reasons for delays and cancellations. Pilots and flight attendants are only allowed to do a certain number of jobs per day. Due to contract and government regulations.
The Southwest is not alone in struggling during a spike in travel after COVID-19 vaccines were made widely available. American Airlines got into trouble during Father’s Day weekend, and Spirit Airlines suffered a Seven-day string of cancellations Passengers were stranded in late July and early August and the airline cost approx. $50 million.
But Southwest has more frequent problems, damaging its carefully crafted reputation as a reliable airline. For months, it is said to be working on improvements. Biggest Push: Hiring employees. Incoming CEO Bob Jordan says the airline is laying off 5,000 employees this fall and 8,000 next year, most of them to replace workers who took early retirement or extended leave during the pandemic.
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What happened over the weekend, and how will Southwest, which has garnered a deep loyalty to travelers in its 50 years, recover?
President and Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven spoke to Granthshala Monday afternoon to provide some answers.
Why was Southwest Airlines the only carrier due to Florida ATC brief issues and weather?
“Florida is just one important node in our network,” Van de Ven said.
He said 40% to 50% of airlines’ planes pass through Florida almost every day, and many crew change there.
“So when we have a disruption, a significant disruption in Florida, it spreads across our entire network,” he said. “And the same situation happened to us on Friday.”
As of Friday night, he said, the airline had “well” more than 100 aircraft and crew “that weren’t where they should have been.”
“That was the problem we were trying to solve,” he said.
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Van de Ven said there was no evidence that any halt to work was to blame, citing the rate of sick calls and other measures the airline monitors.
“There is no indication in any of our data that anything nefarious is going on in relation to any such activity,” he said.
Van de Ven went out of his way to praise the airline’s flight crew and other staff for their handling of the weekend’s mess, which also left them stranded and many without hotels. In 2019, by contrast, Southwest sued its mechanics for a work slowdown. high-profile controversy Which caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration.
What is Southwest Airlines doing for passengers after mass flight cancellations?
Southwest has yet to issue a public statement to the stranded passengers on its website or elsewhere, but van de Ven said the airline was sorry.
“We are very sorry for the impact this has had on their plans,” he said.
Van de Ven said the airline has been flexible with ticket changes and refunds and is issuing goodwill vouchers and compensation for other expenses, but declined to provide details.
Some travelers told wait several hours To reach the airline over the weekend and barely get a refund.
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Will Southwest Airlines cancel holiday flights?
Southwest, like other airlines, has tried to respond to flight problems this year by reducing its flight schedule to give it more breathing room, while staff remains tight.
The airline cut its planned decline, and Van de Ven said Southwest would review its schedule for the rest of this year over the next two weeks, with a direction to continue cutting flights if necessary.
Yes, this can include peak Thanksgiving and Christmas flights, despite efforts to keep those flights intact.
The question the airline would ask, he said: “In these peak holiday period travel days, do we have enough resilience and recovery capability in case something unexpected happens?”
If something happens, passengers will be notified and rebooked on other flights or offered a refund.
In the long run, North has more employees and more flights, he said, so Southwest can more easily rebook passengers when things go awry.
“Fix is really trying to get Southwest Airlines to have our normal level of trips and frequencies in our network, and that could take some time,” Van de Ven said.