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Even After Storms Pass, Southwest Continues to Struggle

Chicago, Illinois, USA - May 21, 2013: Southwest Airlines aircraft on the move with the Chicago skyline in the background.

While Southwest Airlines struggles to return to normal operations, CEO Bob Jordan is apologizing to passengers and explaining why their systems are taking longer to recover.
Southwest Airlines passengers remain stranded across the United States, as the company continues to recover from a network meltdown which started after Christmas Day storms.


Now, all attention is on how the company plans to rebound, as pressure comes from customers, Wall Street and the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Southwest Flight Cancellations Reach 6,000; Jordan Apologizes to Passengers

The network meltdown began as Winter Storm Elliott dumped inches of snow on the East Coast. With flights grounded across the network, Southwest was forced to cancel flights, ultimately creating a domino effect across their entire company.


Since the storm, the Dallas-based airline was forced to cut over 6,000 flights as they try to unbury from the backups according to FlightAware.com. As a result, tens of thousands of passengers are struggling to get to their final destination aboard the airline. In a video message to the public, airline chief executive Bob Jordan attempted to explain why the backups are happening.


“Our network is highly complex and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews remaining in motion to where they’re planned to go,” Jordan said. “With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position in dozens of locations, and after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying to catch up.”


Jordan says that the airline is the largest in the U.S., and is the biggest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S. He also stated his intentions on working through the current challenge, and how the issue “will not be part of our future.”


Despite this, there is plenty of external pressure on the airline to resume normal operations. After a call with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the Transportation Department announced that passengers should be provided with hotels and meal vouchers after major delays. The airline has also opened an online self-center, where flyers can adjust their schedules.




Meanwhile, FlyerTalkers and other passengers are equally upset at the carrier, as this is the latest meltdown for Southwest Airlines. The last one took place in October 2021, when another weather system and air traffic control issues brought the carrier into a meltdown.


“How do Southwest road warriors continue to put up with such incompetence?” asks FlyerTalker diver858. “For anyone who travels for a living, I cannot understand how anyone would choose a carrier that does not have interline agreements with other carriers – full stop.”


“I don’t believe Southwest will be “forgiven” with this meltdown,” opines FlyerTalker jimmc66. “Sure, [United Airlines] gets hammered by the weather issues like everyone else. But clearly they have a better handle on recovery. Getting employees, aircraft, and passengers into the proper place as quickly and efficiently as possible. With [Southwest] getting virtually the same fares as the “mainline” airlines, they have no excuse for such ham-handed mismanagement.”


“Given the size of the meltdown, I expect there will be a serious lookback at the operational strategy,” says FlyerTalker Boraxo. “The hub spoke system tends to localize these events, with the most damage coming when a hub is impacted by weather (e.g. Chicago, Atlanta, etc.) The point-to-point system screws up the entire country when you have planes starting in Buffalo that will be flying to California.”


How are you being affected by the Southwest meltdown? Share your thoughts on the FlyerTalk Forums