After a nightmare week of cancellations that left Southwest Airlines scrambling to repair its status, the beleaguered airline appeared set to finally return to its normal schedule on Friday.
As of Friday morning, just 41 of Southwest’s flights for the day had been canceled, based on FlightAware, a flight-tracking service. A small variety of cancellations every day is typical; barring any last-minute problems, dozens of cancellations would represent a steep improvement from Thursday, when greater than 2,300 flights were canceled.
The corporate said in an announcement on Thursday that it planned to return to its normal schedule on Friday “with minimal disruptions.”
“We all know even our deepest apologies — to our customers, to our employees, and to all affected through this disruption — only go to date,” the corporate said.
The debacle began last week when a significant winter storm scrambled plans across the US, forcing many flights to be canceled during one among the yr’s busiest weeks for travel. While other airlines were in a position to recuperate in a day or two, Southwest’s problems were only starting.
On Sunday — Christmas Day — 1,635 Southwest flights were canceled, or 46 percent of its schedule for the day. That number grew to 2,908 on Monday, and stayed above 2,300 per day through Thursday.
Hundreds of passengers were left with nightmare scenarios of being unable to contact customer support or book alternative flights. Passengers described sleeping on airport terminal floors, missing Christmas plans with family or renting cars to drive greater than 10 hours home.
The problems stemmed from Southwest’s route model, which differs from that of its competitors, making it harder to place staff in place to restart operations after a disruption. (Read more about what caused the meltdown.)
The questions now facing Southwest include learn how to win back its customers, restore its status and stop such debacles in the longer term. The corporate said on Thursday that it might be “investing in latest solutions to administer wide-scale disruptions,” but has not offered specifics.
It is going to contend with increased federal scrutiny. The transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, has sharply criticized the corporate in interviews and wrote to Bob Jordan, Southwest’s chief executive, on Thursday, saying the disruption was “unacceptable.” Several senators have called for investigations, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on Twitter on Thursday that the transportation department “must hold Southwest’s CEO accountable for his greed and incompetence.”
The meltdown could also cost the corporate many hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, because it sorts through how many shoppers were affected and what meals, hotel bookings and alternate transportation will likely be reimbursed.