Southwest Airlines returned to normal operations with “minimal disruptions” Friday as the beleaguered carrier appeared to be delivering on its earlier promise to passengers.
A day after Southwest canceled more than 2,300 flights nationwide — in the latest travel nightmare following weather and computer issues — the airline as of Friday morning had canceled only 43 flights nationally, or about 1% of its total schedule, according the tracking website FlightAware. Another 309 flights, or 7%, were delayed.
At San Diego International Airport, no flights had been canceled as of Friday morning, according to FlightAware. That came a day after a total of 163 flights — 80 outbound and 83 inbound — were scrubbed in San Diego on Thursday.
“Southwest Airlines is operating our normal schedule on Friday, Dec. 30,” the airline said in a statement Friday.
“We appreciate the dedicated work of the Southwest Team to restore our schedule, and we anticipate minimal disruptions for the weekend.”
After a week that saw an estimated 13,000 Southwest flights canceled — stranding thousands of travelers, many of whom were unable to even locate their checked luggage — the airline Friday also issued its latest apology.
“Once again, we value the continued patience and support of our valued customers, and we apologize for the inconveniences of the past week,” Southwest said.
In addition, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan went on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to say the carrier would “make good” with passengers affected by the company’s meltdown.
“This has impacted so many people — so many customers — over the holidays,” Jordan said. “I’m extremely sorry for that. There’s just no way almost to apologize enough.”
Southwest has set up a page at Southwest.com/traveldisruption for customers to submit refund and reimbursement requests for meals, hotel and alternate transportation, as well as to connect customers to their baggage.
Those needing assistance in reuniting with baggage can find information at https://www.southwest.com/baginfo/
“We look forward to the opportunity to address any needs of our customers over the coming days as we strive to return to our previous level of Southwest hospitality and reliability,” Southwest said Friday.
The airline has been working to reset its systems and reposition its aircraft and flight crews, many of which were left out of position as the weather and computer failures combined to devastate Southwest’s operations.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made to realign crew, their schedules and our fleet,” Southwest had said Thursday — the day it promised a return to normal operations by Friday.
“With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued customers and employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy. We know even our deepest apologies — to our customers, to our employees and to all affected through this disruption — only go so far.”
On Thursday, Southwest officials had said the airline was operating roughly one-third of its schedule. In all, 2,364 Southwest flights were scrubbed Thursday — about 58% of the carrier’s schedule. Another 206 were delayed.
“We have much work ahead of us, including investing in new solutions to manage wide-scale disruptions,” the airline said. “We aim to serve our customers and employees with our legendary levels of Southwest hospitality and reliability again very soon.”
The airline previously issued an apology to stranded holiday travelers, stating that its operational challenges stem from last week’s historic winter storm.
“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” according to the Southwest statement. “We’re working with safety at the forefront to urgently address wide-scale disruption by rebalancing the airline and repositioning crews and our fleet ultimately to best serve all who plan to travel with us.”
The airline added, “And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”
At that time, Jordan again blamed the “bitter cold” for the problems, but also acknowledged that the airline needs to make improvements in its scheduling systems “so that we never again face what’s happening right now.”
Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a statement calling the Southwest situation “unacceptable.”
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the department stated. “The department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
Jordan said in his video that he has reached out to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to discuss the steps the airline has taken to rectify the issues.
–City News Service