Southwest’s canceled flights aren’t just due to bad weather, unions say

The horribly bad week of air travel is really about one company: Southwest AirlinesLow-cost airlines are responsible for 70% of 3,800 flights canceled in the United States on Monday, and then a large amount back on Tuesday. But for struggling low-cost airline employees, writing has been etched on the walls of the company’s disaster over the past few days.

Southwest cancel 5,500 flights only on Monday and Tuesday, according to flight tracking service Flight Aware, which attributed the wave of cancellations to winter weather in one area. statement Tuesday. “With consecutive days of severe winter weather across our network, ongoing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in an unacceptably severe way. And our sincere apologies for this have only just begun,” the airline said. But with its major rival airlines reporting cancellations of only about 2% of their flights, the story is much more than that.

As of December 22, nearly 20,000 flights was canceled in the United States, according to Flight Aware, without a disruption in visibility. By early afternoon on Tuesday, Flight Aware had recorded nearly 5,000 more canceled flights and more than 3,500 scheduled for Wednesday. Severe weather conditions Travel was put on hold during the busy Christmas weekend, with severe snowstorms and high winds ravaging airports across the country, with the Midwest and East Coast being particularly hard hit.

The Southwest CEO described Monday’s failure as a “tough day” and the “biggest event” he had ever seen in a business event. interview with Wall Street Journal.

But employees and union groups have criticized the airline for refusing to update its software and trapping pilots and flight attendants in chaos, exacerbating challenges posed by the storm. caused by the storm.

Michael Massioni, vice president of TWU Local 556, a union that represents Southwest flight attendants, said: “At this point, it’s safe to say that Southwest has a systemic problem with being able to manage it. manage their way through weather events. Asset.

“It’s not a weather event, it’s a consequence. After the network went down, we didn’t have the technological tools to regain control,” he said.

Here’s how airline critics say the writing was on the wall long before a winter storm exposed it.

“They don’t know where we are”

The problem is, employees and union representatives say, Southwest has adopted a low-cost approach in many ways. “The storm that hit last week was the catalyst for this, but the problem is the IT infrastructure for the software,” said Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airline Pilots Association, an association. Our scheduler is too outdated. told CNN on Tuesday.

Southwest has for years relied on outdated software to track planes, pilots and flight attendants, and individual employee flight schedules, and has refused to invest in modernizing equipment, Santoro said. The device can be easily damaged in the event of a serious emergency. TWU’s Massioni says similar software has been in use since the late 1990s.

“They don’t know where we are, where our plane is,” Santoro said. He added that the company had been going through a “crisis” of flight delays and cancellations once a year for at least the past five or six years, but he had never seen anything like the one currently causing passengers to miss out. Customers and employees across the country were stranded.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “We have over 10,000 pilots, not all flying at the same time, but imagine everyone is in the wrong city, not assigned a hotel and trying to find a hotel.”

Massioni called Southwest’s behavior over the past week “virtually unforgivable,” as unions have been urging the airline to modernize its equipment since at least 2015.

“We talked about this for years with them. And here we are, they still haven’t invested in their people and technology to help guide us through times like these,” he said.

staff stuck

It’s also not the first time Southwest has had to deal with severe delays and cancellations with stranded employees. In October 2021, the airline canceled more than 1,800 flights due to bad weather and air traffic control issues, leaving some employees without hotel rooms and nearing the end of their contractual and federal terms.

The airline couldn’t have made things better for employees this time around. Massioni said the past week has been “brutal” for Southwest employees, and many of the airline’s 18,000 flight attendants have been stranded in cities without hotel reservations, forced to sleep on the airport floor and worked “countless” illegal workdays. Stranded employees had to call Southwest’s scheduling hotline, Massioni said, but would be lucky to get an answer, as current hold times range from 3 to 15 hours.

Airport workers are hardly better off. Last week, Chris Johnson, vice president of Southwest, sent a Remember board to rampant agents at Denver International Airport declaring an “operating emergency” while noting an unusually high number of employees recently falling ill. Johnson said the airline would implement “mandatory overtime” during the emergency for all employees, who could be fired if they choose not to comply.

In a statement Tuesday, Southwest said it was “very grateful” for its employees, while acknowledging how upset some workers were at the chaos.

The airline said: “We will make things right with the people we have let down, including our Employees.

Southwest is under federal review for setbacks this holiday season. Transportation facilities announced above Twitter Monday that it will “check” to see if cancellations are truly beyond Southwest’s control or if they could have been avoided, and criticized the “unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays.” yes” of the company.

On Tuesday, SWAPA president Casey Murray told AP that Southwest’s problems could persist for a long time if no changes were made to the software system. “The airline cannot connect the crew to the plane. I’m worried about this weekend. “I worry about a month from now,” he said.

Note: This article was updated on December 27 with comment from a spokesperson representing Southwest Airlines flight attendants.


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