How June Turned From a Month of Celebration at Southwest to a Month of Delays and Cancellations

‘We Are All Victims to Computers and Computer Issues’

Southwest's check-in area at the new LaGuardia Central Terminal

By Paul Riegler on 3 July 2021
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June was supposed to be a month of celebration for Southwest Airlines: The airline had long-planned promotions and festivities to mark the Dallas-based airline’s 50th anniversary on June 18.

The airline celebrated its 50th by giving its employees 50,000 Rapid Reward Points each as well as unveiling a special livery on one of its 737 aircraft.

“Southwest revolutionized the travel industry since our very first flight on June 18, 1971 – a time when less than 15% of Americans ever had traveled by air,” said the airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly.

The problem was that its celebrations in the third week of June was overshadowed by the cancellation of hundreds of flights each day that week and over 2,700 for the month, according to data provided by FlightAware, a service that tracks such information.  By comparison, its key competitors, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines, cancelled 189, 106, and 2,423, respectively.

In addition, Southwest experienced delays on 34,250 flights, while United, Delta, and American only had 8,440, 11,057, and 20,418, respectively.

Southwest blamed two separate tech issues for two of the major outages and weather was a factor as well for some, which explains American’s high total, and took steps not to have a repeat performance over the Fourth of July holiday travel period.

The airline announced on the final day of the month that it would offer double-time pay to cabin crew over the holiday period.  The Dallas-based carrier will also offer double-time pay to ground-operations agents and cargo agents who pick up additional shifts over the holiday period, it said.

Meanwhile, the pilots union reaction to the offer of double-time pay was tepid at best, saying that it failed to address more systemic issues.

“It has been clear (since spring!) that our operation was on track for a brutal summer caused by overselling a schedule that they absolutely cannot fill,” the head of the union, Casey Murray, said in a message sent to the airline’s pilots on Monday that was viewed by Frequent Business Traveler.

All of the issues have not only been disruptive to passengers but to employees as well.

“We are all victims to computers and computer issues,” she said, “and when it happens at an airline, it tends to be massive,” Lyn Montgomery, president of the union that represents flight attendants at Southwest, told the Seattle Times in mid-June.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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