Southwest flight relief is still days away and Buttigieg is irate. Southwest Airlines customers who have flights scheduled for this week still have a few more torturous days to wait before the airline’s problems are resolved.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has criticized the troubled airline as it works to reunite stranded customers with their luggage and reallocate flights that have been misplaced.
He has described the current state of affairs as a “meltdown” of the entire institution. And the airline’s choice to implement “operational emergency” staffing at the Denver airport last week as a big winter storm bore down hints at a complex set of variables leading to the airline’s operational disaster.
A Southwest Airlines representative told CNN on Wednesday that as part of the emergency staffing protocols in Denver, employees who call out sick are required to provide a doctor’s letter as proof of illness.
The spokesman needed to know whether the staffing policy is still in effect or when the exceptions stopped being honored.
The Southwest vice president of ground operations declared an operational emergency on December 21, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post, due to an “unusually high number of absences” of Denver-based ramp staff due to sick calls and personal days for the afternoon and nighttime shifts.
The business claims that the root cause of the cancellation snowball is unrelated to the operational emergency in Denver. This torrent persisted till Wednesday afternoon.
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Current data on flight cancellations.
As of 2 PM EST on Wednesday, 2,844 domestic and international flights were canceled due to weather. Of those, around 2,509 were Southwest flights. That’s 88% of the total number of canceled flights in the US; the remaining 12% is split among the other airlines.
Since winter began affecting flights on the 22nd, Southwest has canceled roughly 15,700 flights. There have been cancellations for about 2,350 flights on Thursday alone, making the total cancellations that high.
The airline has been struggling to recover from the disruptions caused by the winter storm. Union officials have stated that computerized and manual processes are utilized to transfer flight crews, which are subject to hour limits for safety reasons.
Chris Perry, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, told CNN that the company has been fine with workers not turning up.
Perry added, “I want to applaud our People for the brave work they are doing, and I want to assure you that we have not had any staffing concerns at any station across our business.”
There is currently an issue with Southwest.
Other US airlines that operate in similar weather conditions have resumed flights.
To make their flights more accessible to stranded travelers, American Airlines and United Airlines have reduced rates on select itineraries supplied by Southwest Airlines.
Due to the lack of interline agreements between Southwest and other airlines, customers are on their own if they need to rebook with a different carrier.
Wednesday saw the highest number of cancellations at Denver International Airport, with significant cancellations also occurring at Chicago Midway, Dallas Love Field, Las Vegas Harry Reid, and Nashville International.
According to FlightAware, 3,211 domestic, international, and domestic flights were canceled on Tuesday.
A whopping 2,694 flights were canceled by Southwest, making them responsible for 84% of all canceled flights in the US.
On Tuesday, passengers at airports across the United States, including Chicago’s Midway International, Las Vegas’s Harry Reid, and Houston’s William P. Hobby, stood in long lines at Southwest ticket counters trying to rebook flights or make connections. At the same time, vast piles of unclaimed bags grew as passengers struggled to retrieve their belongings.
Trisha Jones, a cruise ship passenger who disembarked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was trying to reach her home in Wichita, Kansas, told CNN correspondents that she and her partner had been on the road for five days.
As a result of the flight cancellation, she stayed with her family before rerouting to Atlanta to catch her connecting flight.
Since Jones’s relatives live in the Tampa area, the happy couple could hire a car in Fort Lauderdale and make the trip to spend Christmas with them. It crushes my heart to see so many families living on the floor.
The CEO of Southwest has issued a video apology.
Jordan expressed his regret to passengers and staff in the video that was made public on Tuesday night.
“Please hear that I am sincerely sorry,” Jordan stated, adding that “we are doing everything we can to return to normal functioning.”
He stated that the airline has decided to “substantially decrease our flights to catch up” due to many aircraft and flight crews being “out of position” in many cities.
While Jordan did note specific issues with the company’s response, it seemed from the statement that he did not expect Southwest to make any significant adjustments to its operations in light of the widespread cancellations.
According to Jordan, “the instruments we employ to recover from interruption serve us well 99% of the time,” but “obviously, we need to double-down on our existing plans to update systems for these severe conditions” so that “what is happening right now” never happens again.
From the perspective of the pilot, what seems to be the problem?
Capt. Mike Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told CNN on Tuesday that the airline’s current troubles are the worst disruptions he’s seen in his 16 years with the company.
According to him, the storm from last week precipitated the emergence of severe technological problems.
He explained that the IT infrastructure supporting the scheduling software “went wrong” because of its extreme antiquity. We have too many pilots and flight attendants for it to process, and our route network needs to be more intricate. It’s different from the other major airlines, where there’s a central hub where all flights originate and end. Our personnel could end up at the wrong locations due to the point-to-point nature of our network, which we use when we don’t have any planes available.
His following comment was, “It’s frustrating for the pilots, the flight attendants, and our passengers, especially.” All of us here at Southwest Airlines, especially the pilots, feel terrible for the customers we’ve had to disappoint.