The CEO of Southwest Airlines apologised to customers on Tuesday, December 27, following mass cancellations that left travellers stranded across the United States following the Christmas weekend.
US media, citing FlightAware, said as many as 5,400 Southwest flights were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday.
In a video issued on Tuesday evening, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said that difficulties caused by cold weather had forced the company to cancel flights.
“Our network is highly complex and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews, remaining in motion to where they’re planned to go,” Jordan said.
“With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position in dozens of locations, and after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying [in order] to catch up,” he added.
Jordan went on to say that the company was expecting to be back to full operation before next week.
“We have some real work to do in making this right. For now, I want you to know that we’re committed to that,” Jordan said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said on Tuesday that Secretary Pete Buttigieg had been in touch with Jordan and Southwest to “convey the Department’s expectation that Southwest meet its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again.” Credit: Southwest Airlines via Storyful
BOB JORDAN: I want everyone who is dealing with the problems we've been facing, whether you haven't been able to get to where you need to go, or you're one of our heroic employees caught up in a massive effort to stabilize the airline, to know is that we're doing everything we can to return to a normal operation.
And please also hear that I'm truly sorry. Here's why this giant puzzle is taking us several days to solve. Southwest is the largest carrier in the country, not only because of our value and our values, but because we build our flight schedule around communities, not hubs. So we're the largest airline in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the US, cities where large numbers of scheduled flights simultaneously froze as record bitter cold brought challenges for all airlines.
Now, our network is highly complex, and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews, remaining in motion to where they're planned to go. With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position in dozens of locations, and after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying to catch up. We're focused on safely getting all of the pieces back into position to end this rolling struggle.
Now, I have nothing but pride and respect for the efforts of the people of Southwest, who are showing up in every way. The tools we use to recover from disruption and serve us well 99% of the time, but clearly, we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what's happening right now. I'm apologizing to them daily, and they'll be hearing more about our specific plans to ensure the challenges that they face the past few days will not be part of our future.
I reached out to Secretary Buttigieg earlier today to continue the discussions we've been having with the DOT through the holiday, sharing all the things that we're doing to make things right for our customers. We always take care of our customers. And we will lean in and go above and beyond as they would expect us to. Teams are working on all of that-- processing refunds, proactively reaching out and taking care of customers who are dealing with costly detours and reroutes, as just a few examples.
Our plan for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule and reposition our people and planes, and we're making headway. And we're optimistic to be back on track before next week. We have some real work to do in making this right. For now, I want you to know that we're committed to that.