Southwest Airlines Develops Software Fix to Prevent Future Travel Meltdowns
The company is facing a DOT investigation.
Following its disastrous Christmas travel season, which saw the cancellation of 16,700 flights, Southwest Airlines is testing new software fixes — and facing an inquiry from the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) for "unrealistic scheduling of flights."
CNN reports that the airline's existing software system will remain in place. However, changes stemming from Southwest's review include a new command center team, telephone system improvements, and overall improved preparedness for inclement weather.
In a Thursday call with investors, the Portland Press Herald reports that Southwest CEO Bob Jordan defended the company's systems and operating plans, saying, "Based on what we know at this point, our processes and technology generally worked as designed."
Southwest also announced Thursday that it had a third-quarter 2022 loss of $220 million in revenue. At the same time, Jordan assured investors that issues dogging the airline throughout the holidays won't "ever happen again."
Southwest had many cancellations over the holidays partly because their system requires crew members to call in instead of updating their availability electronically. On Thursday, the company's COO, Andrew Watterston, called that "a problem" and then elaborated, "It wasn't the problem for the situation. It was a symptom of the problem."
According to Jordan, switching to electronic notification will necessitate changes in pilot and flight attendant labor contracts. CNN says Southwest is currently negotiating to replace existing contracts covering various issues, including pay and benefits.
Despite tech failures, the Press Herald notes that Bob Jordan said Southwest would shell out $1.3 billion for its upcoming upgrades this year. The "recent disruptions," Jordan said, "will likely accelerate some of our plans to enhance our processes and technology."