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Southwest Airlines Shows Progress in Push to Restore Flights

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Southwest Airlines Co.

LUV 0.87%

showed more progress Saturday in its push to regain credibility with regulators and travelers, especially those whose holidays were disrupted by the company’s meltdown over the past week.

The Dallas-based carrier had just one Saturday flight cancellation as of midday, according to FlightAware. Overall, more than 70 flights among all airlines flying to, from or within the U.S. had been canceled.

A Southwest spokeswoman said the airline was operating a normal Saturday schedule of about 3,400 flights. Meanwhile, the airline was seeking volunteers among its employees to help the customer-service staff catch up with requests for refunds and reunite customers with missing bags.

In a video distributed to staff members Friday, Southwest executives were upbeat about the near-term outlook. “I’m just very pleased to share that things are going very, very well,” said

Bob Jordan,

the airline’s chief executive. 

Andrew Watterson,

chief operating officer, said lines had grown shorter and that the airline expected to provide normal service during the New Year holiday period and beyond. 

Southwest has ramped up its service after a meltdown that resulted in nearly 16,000 canceled flights between Dec. 22 and 29. Those cancellations, stemming from the recent winter storm, left thousands of holiday travelers stranded, furious and in many cases separated by hundreds of miles from their luggage. 

Though the storm created problems for all airlines, Southwest canceled far more flights and was much slower than others to recover. Executives of the airline have said the scheduling system used to revise crew schedules after storms was overwhelmed by the volume of changes required. Airline staff members fumbled with makeshift manual methods to match up available crew and planes.

Southwest Airlines travelers arriving from Denver waited for luggage in Minneapolis Friday.



Photo:

Abbie Parr/Associated Press

To get back on track, the airline shrank itself for much of this week, operating roughly a third of its typical schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as it worked to get crews and planes back in place. The airline resumed operating its full schedule Friday. 

Southwest’s problems are far from over. Regulators, lawmakers and union leaders have said they are monitoring the airline’s response to the crisis. Southwest has apologized repeatedly and promised to reimburse affected travelers.

“As SWA turns the corner operationally, focus must remain on promptly compensating passengers caught in last week’s breakdown,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a tweet Saturday.

One regular Southwest customer who still needs more reassurance is Allison Whitney, a professor of film and media studies at Texas Tech University. She was due to fly home to Lubbock, Texas, from Minnesota on Wednesday, but her Southwest flight was canceled. Facing the risk of being stranded until early in the new year, she booked an American Airlines flight Friday and made it home. 

Ms. Whitney likes Southwest’s luggage and easy-rebooking policies and finds that it can be the only good choice for some of her trips. But she said that after this week, she might hesitate to rely on Southwest for longer trips until she is convinced that the airline’s computer systems are up to date.

Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected] and Alison Sider at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8




Southwest Airlines Co.

LUV 0.87%

showed more progress Saturday in its push to regain credibility with regulators and travelers, especially those whose holidays were disrupted by the company’s meltdown over the past week.

The Dallas-based carrier had just one Saturday flight cancellation as of midday, according to FlightAware. Overall, more than 70 flights among all airlines flying to, from or within the U.S. had been canceled.

A Southwest spokeswoman said the airline was operating a normal Saturday schedule of about 3,400 flights. Meanwhile, the airline was seeking volunteers among its employees to help the customer-service staff catch up with requests for refunds and reunite customers with missing bags.

In a video distributed to staff members Friday, Southwest executives were upbeat about the near-term outlook. “I’m just very pleased to share that things are going very, very well,” said

Bob Jordan,

the airline’s chief executive. 

Andrew Watterson,

chief operating officer, said lines had grown shorter and that the airline expected to provide normal service during the New Year holiday period and beyond. 

Southwest has ramped up its service after a meltdown that resulted in nearly 16,000 canceled flights between Dec. 22 and 29. Those cancellations, stemming from the recent winter storm, left thousands of holiday travelers stranded, furious and in many cases separated by hundreds of miles from their luggage. 

Though the storm created problems for all airlines, Southwest canceled far more flights and was much slower than others to recover. Executives of the airline have said the scheduling system used to revise crew schedules after storms was overwhelmed by the volume of changes required. Airline staff members fumbled with makeshift manual methods to match up available crew and planes.

Southwest Airlines travelers arriving from Denver waited for luggage in Minneapolis Friday.



Photo:

Abbie Parr/Associated Press

To get back on track, the airline shrank itself for much of this week, operating roughly a third of its typical schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as it worked to get crews and planes back in place. The airline resumed operating its full schedule Friday. 

Southwest’s problems are far from over. Regulators, lawmakers and union leaders have said they are monitoring the airline’s response to the crisis. Southwest has apologized repeatedly and promised to reimburse affected travelers.

“As SWA turns the corner operationally, focus must remain on promptly compensating passengers caught in last week’s breakdown,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a tweet Saturday.

One regular Southwest customer who still needs more reassurance is Allison Whitney, a professor of film and media studies at Texas Tech University. She was due to fly home to Lubbock, Texas, from Minnesota on Wednesday, but her Southwest flight was canceled. Facing the risk of being stranded until early in the new year, she booked an American Airlines flight Friday and made it home. 

Ms. Whitney likes Southwest’s luggage and easy-rebooking policies and finds that it can be the only good choice for some of her trips. But she said that after this week, she might hesitate to rely on Southwest for longer trips until she is convinced that the airline’s computer systems are up to date.

Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected] and Alison Sider at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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