Antiquated IT System Is Key Reason For Southwest Airlines Implosion

Antiquated IT System Is Key Reason For Southwest Airlines Implosion

Antiquated IT System Is Key Reason For Southwest Airlines Implosion

An antiquated IT system is partially or the key reason for the Southwest Airlines implosion these last few days.

Southwest Airlines’ pilot and flight attendant unions warned for years that the company’s rickety computer systems left the airline vulnerable. The carrier stuck with outdated technology and never heeded those warnings, they say.

Southwest’s overwhelmed technology — a scenario fueled by a punishing winter storm — left it this week facing some of the most difficult days in its half-century history, in some cases forcing managers to solve problems with pen and paper while crew members wait on hold for hours with schedulers.

I along with so many have been watching this train wreck for several days now. I cannot imagine what all the passengers have been dealing with. I ALSO cannot imagine what all the front line employees (check-in, gate attendants, flight attendants, pilots, call center people) have been dealing with. People, travelers and employees alike, are understandably upset that Southwest has imploded like it has. 

People have been left stranded for several hours and even days trying to figure out a new flight or even alternative modes of transportation. 

Navy physician Lt. Cmdr. Manoj Mathew said after spending hours on hold over two days Southwest reimbursed him for the first leg of his family’s trip from Washington to Houston — they drove through terrible weather after the Dec. 23 flight was canceled. Now he is worried whether Southwest will operate the return flight Sunday.

“I’m trying to reach other airlines,” he said. “There are no flights, plus it’s very expensive for us.”

The IT systems are a key issue as Southwest operates on a very different plane compared to the other major carriers. Southwest operates on a point to point, while the other carriers operate on the hub system. Thus, if the IT systems for Southwest crash, then it not only leaves passengers out in the cold, Southwest employees have no idea who is where. Which led to pilots and crew available to fly, but the systems weren’t showing the same, so per regulations they had to stay grounded. 

Keep in mind, Southwest has had other issues. Last year was a problem for sure concerning weather and vaccine protocols, but nowhere near the train wreck they are dealing with now. 

Oh but NOW Petey is ON IT.

Biden? He’s on vacation! As for what needs to be done? Passengers DO and SHOULD be compensated. Their canceled flights should be reimbursed as should any car rental and hotels. Some travelers are now out thousands of dollars. Others have been stranded and the very least the airline should do is completely reimburse their costs, which includes any rebooked flights. 

In August, Buttigieg proposed a rule that would require airlines to give refunds if a flight is canceled or significantly delayed. Still, Democrats said it didn’t go far enough, arguing that carriers should also have to pay for secondary costs such as food, lodging and transportation.

Those lawmakers include Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, who said Tuesday that the Southwest meltdown — which has stranded some travelers for several days — shows why the rule needs to be strengthened.

“Consumers deserve strong protections, including an updated consumer refund rule,” Cantwell said in a statement.

That said, what else can Petey and the Department of Transportation do? How else can they fix this issue? They can’t. Why? Because it is on Southwest to pony up the funds to upgrade their IT systems. 

Quite honestly, I am gobsmacked to find out that Southwest, as popular as the airline is (or has been) didn’t upgrade their systems when they’ve had multiple opportunities! 

As bad as it has been, there have been SO many frontline employees who’ve stepped up in numerous ways.

Meanwhile, there are thousands of people wondering where their luggage is. 

A LOT of this could’ve been adverted if Southwest had used some of its $7 BILLION in taxpayer Covid bailout funding to upgrade their IT systems! Yes, the airlines in total received nearly $60 billion in funds. Southwest got a nice chunk of change.

The $7 billion Southwest received from three COVID relief bills allowed ineffective practices at the airline to persist. Allowing the competitive pressures to more freely do their work might have spurred some productive change within Southwest.

And yet, it’s now evident that Southwest did not use any of those funds to shore up their infrastructure. 

I’ve flown Southwest for years partly due to price, but also due to the fact that the crews are awesome! I totally feel for the front line crews. They are doing their damndest in the midst of one hideously spectacular shit show. 

Let’s hope that the execs at Southwest have woken up and realized what they’ve wrought by their inaction. Also, I would say those execs, if they haven’t already, need to roll up their sleeves and get their asses to the airport, ANY airport and pitch in. They’ll learn a lot by doing. 

Feature Photo Credit: Southwest planes at gate via Flickr, cropped and modified

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  • Chad King says:

    The solutions proposed by the Democrats are simply insane. Yes–the airlines should be required to return fares–no one should be charged for a service they didn’t receive. But to require the airlines to both return unarmed fares and pay to get people where they want to be will result in higher fares for everyone. Why should I get a free trip when for any reason I don’t get where I want when I want? And why should everyone pay for a weather-related delay or cancellation (the cost of management/IT related problems should be assigned to the Southwest shareholders–but who makes that decision? Pete Buttigieg or one of his fellow rocket scientists?)? Wild idea–maybe we should let the market discipline Southwest and keep the government out of it.

  • Cameron says:

    I have experience with installing networks. I sense a potential opportunity. -:-)

  • Stephen C says:

    (Southwest Airlines Co.’s ISS Governance Quality Score as of December 1, 2022 is 2. The pillar scores are Audit: 4; Board: 8; Shareholder Rights: 1; Compensation: 3.) LUV’s overall score is a 2. 2 is low risk. Looks suspect to me. 10 is high risk. the Board is an 8. They should resign.

  • […] Meanwhile, Biden did his usual. Jets off on vacation in St. Croix and leaves the bill stranded and ignoring blizzards, illegal immigration, and the Southwest implosion. […]

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