Southwest Airlines was forced to delay hundreds of flights on Tuesday after a temporary IT outage stopped pilots from viewing detailed weather reporting as part of crucial pre-flight planning activities.
The outage meant the embattled Dallas-based airline was forced to issue a nationwide ground stop for a short period while engineers got the weather reporting system back up and running.
Insiders say the system was down for only a short period of time, but the brief outage resulted in a ripple effect through Southwest’s planned schedule. Data provided by Flight Aware shows that Southwest ended with more than 1,500 delayed flights on Tuesday and nearly 140 canceled services.
The issue would only have affected flights still on the ground, and safety was not compromised because flights are not allowed to take -off until all pre-flight planning activities are complete.
It is, however, an embarrassment for Southwest after the airline suffered a major Christmas meltdown which analysts have blamed on antiquated IT systems – in that case, Southwest’s out-of-date crew scheduling program that didn’t know where displaced pilots and flight attendants were in the network.
In the end, Southwest was forced to completely rebuild flight crew rosters manually – a process that Southwest CEO Bob Jordan admitted was a “tedious” and “long” process.
Jordan was forced to massively drawback Southwest’s schedule over the Christmas period while the airline effectively reset its operations. On Tuesday, the airline said it had made “solid progress” in restoring its operations over the New Year.
Just before yesterday’s flight planning outage, Southwest said it had a system completion rate of 99.1 per cent over the New Year weekend, while the airline says the majority of delayed luggage that backed up during the Christmas meltdown should be delivered back to customers by the end of Wednesday.
In a statement, Southwest said the “urgent work continues on planned improvements to processes and systems that will bolster the ability of Southwest to recover effectively in large-scale disruptions of our operational plans.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.