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Southwest Airlines cancels thousands of flights after winter snowstorm

The winter storm that disrupted thousands of travel plans over the weekend has created an epic pile-on of flight cancellations for Southwest Airlines, leaving thousands of families stranded, with some waiting for days to fly back home. ( More...

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Jason Enyart 11
SWA just became "like every other airline". There was a time when they were special, different, and cool. But now they are run by the exact same type of people they used to loathe. There is no turning back and the "good old days" are gone. Gud Luk
Brian Freeman 8
Mr. Enyart - I beg to differ...if Southwest was "was like every other airline" they would have completed the majority of their flights during this time frame. Sadly, they're much worse, at least in this case. Time for major changes to their infrastructure.
Sidney Smith 13
What is not addressed is that Delta, United, American, Alaska all started cancelling on Wednesday to reduce the load on their system. Southwest thought they could "keep all the balls in the air," but being a centralized U.S. operation they were forced to drop everything and start their system over.
jmilleratp 8
I got stranded for 12 hours because of a weather-delayed flight on Southwest on Thursday last week. Sounds like I got off easy.
Michael Dealey -1
A Friend of mine was scheduled to leave Dallas for Orlando on Christmas day. Her flight was delayed for over eight hours. They finally put everyone on a plane, only then to announce that they were short a pilot and were "calling around" for one while everyone was now stuck on board.
She finally made it home about 13 hours after scheduled departure.
Peter Fuller 5
What is a “centralized U.S. operation”? How and why would it make Southwest uniquely vulnerable to this cascade of cancellation chaos?
wx1996 26
The majority of their fleet stops a couple times a day at airports in the path of the storm. They cannot easily use replacement aircraft as they are not hub and spoke. One aircraft will fly through several cities, not out to Nashville and back. They need a serious computer to do same day rescheduling if they have more than a few issues. There are lots of moving parts, aircraft, pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, and contracted airport access hours. The parts all move independently and most alight for the passenger flight to take place.

It did not help that Southwest Executives got very authoritian, mandating overtime for everyone or they get fired. I lot of employees, especially ground staff, walked off the job. While the majority ignored the mandate to report for unscheduled overtime with 12 hour or longer days.

This is squarely an Executive problem. The BOD should hold them accountable and give out walking papers.

They have known for years that their scheduling system cannot be recovered easily, as they are not hub and spoke. They have never been willing to invest in the raw computing power and software to dynamically recover their schedule. Second was the idea employees would accept the overtime or else approach they took. Rather than cancel future flights likes all their competitors. They thought they would keep most their schedule intact with the work overtime or else approach.
Donald Parsons 28
"The federal Department of Transportation on Monday said it would investigate the meltdown"....the Feds can't control their own meltdowns - why would they think they could solve this? The free market will make it's own adjustment (loss of passengers) in good time. If the Feds get involved - it will be a mess. Slaps on the wrist from the Feds usually involve a monetary fine of some sort - but where does the money go and how does it stop/reduce these mishaps? Just more money for the Feds to waste with no measurable results
Tim Dyck 7
Looks like you nailed it. If you think things are bad just wait til you see the government solution.
Dr Stephen Vadas 4
Very true- I agree.
mary susan watkins 6
southwest was anxious to keep up and running and to expand after the covid cutbacks...they have been trying to hire new personnel in all categories for several months,but even if you have enough crew for the planes,and maybe enough people who can brave the storm to work at the airport,if the planes cannot take off to get from point a to point b due to seriously inclement weather all across the u.s.,including their hubs,the flights have to be cancelled..granted,the management in a push to get the airline going,should have forseen probable issues with computer systems,reservations personnel and flight dispatch centers,and kept their system in "preparedness" mode..severe weather is NOT a new issue to any of the airlines,but this storm was an arctic blast of epic proportions, and it DID cover almost the entire u.s. as it pushed down all the way to the gulf of truth, what can the federal government do..regulations are already in place for monetary compensation,places to stay,food,etcetera for stranded passengers..i do feel very badly for all of those lines and lines of people as well as for the agents and baggage handlers having to deal with the MASSIVE amounts of luggage in rows and rows at various airports..i might add howeveer, that management of southwest put out a very terse and threatning letter to employees up to and including termination,if they called in sick or just didnt show up because they supposedly could not get to the airport..THAT was really NOT the way to deal with employees either...
Michael Penney 1
Southwest needed a system that could create new flights/schedules to redirect available aircraft/crews to available airports. And then schedule passengers as appropriated. Yes, easy said, NOT easy executed. (I fly three times a year roundtrip HOU to RIC. On that run at least 2 of my aircraft come from the far north.)
Southwest is my FAVORITE airline.PERIOD!!!!
Brian Freeman 4
@Terry Staton - Spoken like someone who wasn't stranded for multiple days by your favorite airline.
Mark Jenkins 1
I've been flying for 40 years and have been treated both well and poorly by many carriers. As the cost for flying has gone down over time, the largesse associated with correcting problems has gone down as well. It's been quite a while since I was treated to a first class flight in recompense for a cancelation or other problem.

In or around 2010, I was stranded for days in Spokane by Southwest reportedly because they had not installed advanced landing equipment on their aircraft before the main runway was shutdown for an extended period of time, and they could not land on an alternate runway in fog without the advanced equipment. Each morning for several mornings our flight out would be canceled because the equipment had not managed to land that morning. We ended up renting a car and driving to Seattle, and flying out from Seattle. Needless to say, I was not happy. However, I still continue to fly Southwest by preference and have saved many thousands of dollars flying with them over the years and except for that one time in Spokane haven't had any outstanding problems.

I like Southwest's low fares, I like Southwest's free checked baggage policy, I like Southwest's flight credit policies, and I like Southwest's boarding procedures. I don't mind the minimal meal service (everyone used to complain about airline food anyway), and generally speaking, Southwest has been a great carrier for me.

Southwest's system seems to have shattered this holiday season, and I'm VERY glad I wasn't caught in the middle of it. Lots of people have ideas about what was the root cause - I hope Southwest is doing some very deep root cause analysis to get to the bottom of it and will apply corrective actions accordingly. I'll continue to fly Southwest by preference however, until/unless it becomes obvious that the risks of flying with them outweigh the benefits for me.
Alan Dahl 0
And my least favorite based on my experiences with them long before this meltdown.
David Purtz 4
Too much Point to Point vs. Hub and Spoke?
avionik99 5
So the other airlines all did ok? What's southwest's problem?
Larry Toler 10
Bad management and over zealous flight scheduling.
hwh888 2
You get what you pay for. Want a cheap ticket? Sometimes cheap isn't so cheap.
Larry, please do not forget that seemingly low-cost air travel is now a human right.....
Alan Dahl 1
An antiquated and overwhelmed internal scheduling system that could not handle the extreme number of aircraft and crew out of position. They have failed to invest in new IT infrastructure for years in the name of concentrating on "shareholder value" and they ended up having to have everyone call in and say where they were along with shutting down over half their network so they could reposition people and aircraft in their version of a hard reboot. I've also read that treating their ramp workers poorly made the situation ever worse as many walked of their jobs rather than work excessive overtime in terrible weather. But whether it was that or the IT side that caused the ultimate cascade in the end the common root cause was callus and clueless management.
Alan Dahl 1
An antiquated and overwhelmed internal scheduling system that could not handle the extreme number of aircraft and crew out of position. They have failed to invest in new IT infrastructure for years in the name of concentrating on "shareholder value" and they ended up having to have everyone call in and say where they were along with shutting down over half their network so they could reposition people and aircraft in their version of a hard reboot. I've also read that treating their ramp workers poorly made the situation ever worse as many walked of their jobs rather than work excessive overtime in terrible weather. But whether it was that or the IT side that caused the ultimate cascade in the end the common root cause was callous and clueless management.
a1brainiac 2
If you want to fly a low cost airline like Southwest, expect to get what you pay for
Justthefacs 1
Question. If SW has a problem, will they book you on another airline? Just wondering. I think some airlines will.
Kairho Carroll 1
I don't believe they have any such arrangements with the majors, but possibly with Spirit.
Sean Stanton 1
As far as I know, Southwest has no affiliation with any other airlines. Both my grown children, one in Texas, the other in North Carolina (we live in San Diego) had flights to and from San Diego. All were cancelled and my wife and I opened the bank of Stanton and paid for rescheduled - very last minute- very expensive one way tickets home for Xmas. Will never trust or fly Southwest again
Richard Haas 1
Southwest has no interline agreement[s].
Ron Streetenberger 1
Ah for the good old days when Southwest had two 737-100s and two destinations-Dallas and Houston.
Jaime Terrassa 1
it seems to me that their excuse every time there is a snow Stom,
Elliot Cannon 1
What would Herb have done?
John Brooks 1
Herb would have fired a bunch of people and bought new computers years ago, but the board would not approve the upgrade.
sparkie624 1
Guess they are not ready for the Winter Season yet... not Surprising...

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Highflyer1950 13
Actually, most can & do. Southwest has a fair weather system and scheduling pays the price for a decentralized operation, however the customer pays the ultimate price when there is no crew or airplane available………then the domino effect kicks in.
Dale Ballok 1
I guess I’m wrong. And I thought all along this was another thing Trump was responsible for!
David Purtz -9
Who wants an organization that can't secure our border with Mexico, is $32 Trillion indebt, closed pipelines, has a war going on in Ukraine, expects to be rewarded for failure, paid and keep their jobs, etc. telling an airline what to do? It's obvious SW has sever problems now, but they will work themselves back to nominal operations. Safety is number one, there's no need to fly an aircraft into the ground to satisfy some incompetent government bureaucrat's hissy fit. Remember, the guy in charge (Mayor Pete) believes men can birth babies; think about that.
josh homer 3
Please keep right wing talking points off of here.
Dale Ballok 4
Brian Freeman 3
I don't anything David Purtz said is inaccurate. How is that "right wing?"
Nultech 0
Good to see we'll have no shortage of hand-wringing vexxed people to pollute our online experiences in 2023. Keep up the good work! {Sarcasm off}
blueashflyer 0
If Southwest would just keep three to four A380's around, they could cut into that backlog in no time.
zuluzuluzulu 0
the differenceS between SWA and other airlines inclement weather sucess rate?
2)Serving airports without precision ILS capabilities
3) Bad decisions in the middle of a storm. This crash was caused by Management Error
Charles Wetterman -4
Stupid comment...
Brad Onstott 0
Yes, Southwest dropped the ball, AGAIN!! But other carriers had some issues also. This said, it's time that Southwest joins the 21st Century. Everybody knows what their problems are, but management doesn't seem to care about fixing them. And another thing, why are all the major carriers using the exact same hubs? All this does is make the problem(s) worse. Maybe it's time the DOT fixes the carrier problems for them...........
wayne holder 0
Southwest didn't create the weather phenomenon so cant sympathize with anyone getting their flight canceled because flying is directly weather related. You knew that before you booked the flight because the weather stations forecast that storm well in advance so you had plenty of time to make other arrangements.
Joe Keifer -6
I recommend that Peter Buttigieg keep his nose out of things and not try to bankrupt SWA all by himself.
Dale Ballok 3
So, your solution to this TOTAL SWA screw up and melt down, is to just ignore it ever happened and move on?
josh homer 3
Explain how Pete controls SWA?
strickerje 1
DOT has declared they're investigating the incident, and as transportation secretary, he's head of DOT, correct?
DaveRK 1
Correct, but the whiners had to find something/someone to point their uneducated fingers at.
zuluzuluzulu 4
Fox news says blame Pete B and you do? bahhhh, bahhh, bahhh.
Charles Wetterman -3
Blame him for what, he spends time at home baby feeding, he is a joke....

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

KitBagJack 0
Time to hire former AA CEO Bob Crandall to straighten up the operation.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Wingrat -3
The Southwest airlines debacle. Apparently it was a direct result of weather systems that a plane cannot manage no matter how tough or skilled pilots are planes just don’t do well in bad weather and passengers seem unbelievably unaware of how bad weather affects flying until It’s read about Some nightmares wreck. Southwest Airlines? Yeah, Its time to unionized, because it stops their problems with unfair mgmt practices. union workers are better when a defined benefits contract makes unfair and dangerous management straighten up and fly right. I don’t know if Southwest is unionized or not but they sure as hell could use it and management getting so obnoxious and threatening with employees pretty much drives them right out the door to organize. All the airlines can use those skills that walk out looking for better working conditions and pay. There seems no future think at Southwest
Boot Edge Edge will fix it.


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