Southwest plans $1.3B in upgrades after holiday travel chaos

  • Southwest is planning upgrades after a chaotic travel season last year
  • Passengers were left stranded after a winter storm in December
  • Southwest CEO: Work is 'well underway' to prepare for next winter

(NewsNation) — After facing backlash from a chaotic holiday travel season, Southwest recently announced it is making changes that include upgrading its crew scheduling software and hiring more staff in the winter.

According to a news release, the airline has developed a three-part plan to “boost operational resiliency in key areas across the company.” The release noted that an existing five-year “Operational Modernization Plan” is also underway.

“We understand the root causes that led to the holiday disruption, and we’re validating our internal review with the third-party assessment. Now, we expect to mitigate the risk of an event of this magnitude ever happening again,” Bob Jordan, Southwest’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Work is well underway implementing action items to prepare for next winter— with some items already completed.”

These new investments will cost about $1.3 billion in 2023.

Customer phone systems will get better surge protection for times when the airline has a high call volume, according to Southwest, and it will purchase deicing equipment. Southwest also plans to buy more engine covers and heaters for cold weather.

More employees for the winter will be hired as well, Southwest said.

Last December, airlines began canceling flights because of winter storms that hit much of the country. However, Southwest continued experiencing cancellations and delays, even after the storms cleared.

Even in better weather, planes and crews weren’t where they needed to be for flights to operate. And unlike other airlines, Southwest had no centralized location to gather resources and get people and planes back in place.

Many travelers were left stranded and scrambling to find others means of transportation during the holidays.

This prompted an investigation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and earlier this year, Southwest announced a loss of earnings.

Reuters, Evan Lambert and Stephanie Whiteside contributed to this story.


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