At a information convention in Houston, Southwest spokesman Jay McVay stated cancellations snowballed as storm programs moved throughout the nation, leaving flight crews and planes misplaced.
“So we’ve been chasing our tails, making an attempt to catch up and get again to regular safely, which is our No. 1 precedence, as shortly as we might,” he stated. “And that’s precisely how we ended up the place we’re at present.”
Not like many different U.S. air carriers, Southwest operates on what is named a point-to-point flight route system, which means a airplane will fly consecutive routes, choosing up totally different crews alongside the way in which.
In regular occasions, this may permit Southwest to function extra flights over a given 24-hour interval than different carriers, stated Scott Meyerowitz, govt editor of The Factors Man journey website.
But when an airport goes offline due to climate, and a flight can’t attain its vacation spot, the point-to-point system has a cascading cancellation impact, he stated.
“When dangerous climate hits, and you’ve got staffing points like they did, it creates a state of affairs that’s close to unimaginable to get well from, and it couldn’t have occurred throughout a worse doable week,” Meyerowitz stated of Southwest’s cancellations.
Southwest’s woes seem to have been difficult by staffing points at its gasoline vendor in Denver, CNBC reported. A report from The Denver Publish confirmed the authenticity of a leaked inner memo that stated Southwest had entered a “state of operational emergency” in Denver on Dec. 21 attributable to an unusually excessive variety of absences amongst ramp brokers.
A spokesman for the union representing the brokers didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airways Pilots Affiliation, stated Southwest had not adequately ready flights for the storm, which hampered floor transportation and upkeep automobiles. Planes had gasoline that congealed and potable water that froze within the wintry circumstances, Murray stated.
“The actual fact is: We weren’t ready,” Murray stated.
Including to the issue: Massive swaths of Southwest crews stay in contract negotiations with the provider.
“The Southwest of outdated is gone,” Murray stated. “It’s now threats and intimidations to inspire, as an alternative of the outdated Southwest with a coronary heart.”
Southwest Airways didn’t instantly reply to questions on ongoing contract negotiations with its crews.
CNBC additionally reported that inner know-how failures had stymied crew reassignments.
The U.S. Division of Transportation stated in a press release that it plans to look at whether or not the cancellations had been “controllable” and if Southwest is complying with its customer support plan.
Meyerowitz stated the division, below the management of Secretary Pete Buttigieg, has proven an aggressive posture on the subject of airways inflicting shopper woes, and that he would not be stunned if harsh penalties got here down.
“We’re nonetheless ready to see precise laws come ahead and be carried out, however there was essentially the most speak I’ve seen in additional than a decade,” Meyerowitz stated.
Related Press contributed.