American Airlines captain: Where Southwest went wrong

Business

(NewsNation) — An American Airlines pilot joined NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Tuesday to explain why Southwest Airlines has struggled to deal with the nation’s ferocious winter storm in comparison to other airlines.

Southwest canceled more than 5,000 flights Monday and Tuesday with approximately 3,900 more scheduled to be canceled Wednesday and Thursday — compared to Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines, which both canceled about 10% of their flights, and even smaller cancellation percentages at American, Delta, United and JetBlue.

AA Capt. Dennis Tajer says it comes down to preparation.

“This is a failure to plan and a failure to stress test your operation,” Tajer said. “Every airline has gone through this and Southwest today is reaching new lows.”

In addition to being a pilot for AA, Tajer is the communications committee chair for the Allied Pilots Association. According to Tajer, pilots at American work with management during the summer to construct an emergency flying schedule for such events, “and it worked.”

Tajer’s explanation would certainly speak to Southwest’s claim that its pilots and flight attendants were out of position.

But, according to Tajer, that’s an issue any up-to-date IT system can handle, as IT systems at airlines connects pilots to the airline.

“They’re talking about IT issues. You got to have IT systems that are up to date for this decade right now,” Tajer said on “Rush Hour.” “It’s literally down to knowing where your crews are.”

Ultimately, Tajer said it’s on Southwest for having not invested in the proper tech while booking tickets after the storm.

“This is on management teams. I know the pilots at Southwest — they’re just like us at American. They want to fly the airplanes and get people where they need to be because if the passengers get there, we get home, too,” Tajer said.

Additionally, in an apology statement Tuesday, Southwest contributed the delays to “consecutive days of extreme winter weather” across its network.

The Transportation Department told NewsNation on Tuesday that Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with the CEO of Southwest Airlines and said expects the airline to make amends and compensate its affected passengers accordingly by “providing meal vouchers, refunds and hotel accommodations for those experiencing significant delays or cancellations that came about as a result of Southwest’s decisions and actions.”

The same goes for Southwest’s flight attendants and pilots, who were reportedly stranded alongside passengers.

The U.S. DOT said Buttigieg expects Southwest’s CEO “to do right by their pilots and flight attendants —and all their workers — in these situations.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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