Southwest President & CEO Shares Update on Holiday Disruptions

Southwest has been operating flights as normal since New Year’s, but it continues to make amends for its mass cancelations during the Christmas holiday that affected hundreds of thousands of travelers over the span of a week-plus.

According to a letter shared this week by the airline’s president and CEO Bob Jordan, the company has returned “virtually” all of the baggage that was separated from travelers during the time period. It continues to process tens of thousands of reimbursements daily and has processed “nearly all” refunds. Southwest is additionally offering 25,000 Rapid Rewards points “as a gesture of goodwill” to its “most significantly impacted” customers.

To help ensure that operational disruptions do not happen again, the company has:

  • Established supplemental operational staffing that can quickly mobilize to support crew recovery efforts
  • Enhanced crew engagement technology to efficiently communicate with large numbers of crew members during frequent schedule changes
  • Updated and upgraded its crew recovery system to not only solve current and future schedules, but also provide the ability to optimize established schedules as we revise them during irregular operations

Southwest has also contracted global aviation consulting firm Oliver Wyman to complete an assessment of the event and make recommendations of additional mitigation elements for us to consider. In all, the airline is budgeting more than $1 billion of its annual operating plan on investments, upgrades, and maintenance of its IT systems—the main culprit behind the delays and cancelations.

Today, Southwest has canceled 172 flights globally (4 percent of its total flights), while 108 (2 percent) have been delayed, according to FlightAware.

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