Southwest passengers face delays after nationwide grounding

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines planes were briefly grounded across the country Tuesday for what the airline called an intermittent technology glitch, resulting in more than 1,800 delayed flights just four months after the carrier suffered a much larger collapse. during the Christmas travel rush.

The block on departures was lifted by late morning, according to Southwest and the Federal Aviation Administration, but not before traffic at airports from Denver to New York recovered.

“Southwest has resumed operations after temporarily suspending flight activity this morning to resolve data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure,” the Dallas-based airline said in a prepared statement. “Early this morning, a vendor-provided firewall went down and connection to some operational data was unexpectedly lost.”

Southwest urged customers to check their flight status “and explore self-service options” for travel as the airline works to restore operations.

As of noon on the east coast, more than 40% of all south west flights had been delayed and the airline was responsible for nearly two-thirds of all delays nationwide. On the bright side, Southwest only had a dozen canceled flights, like other major airlines, according to FlightAware.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg retweeted a message from the FAA about the ground stop, adding, “We’re here to ensure passengers have strong protection when airline failures like this affect their plans.” He referred travelers to a Department for Transport passenger rights checklist and his press officer pointed out that ‘no other airlines have experienced disruptions’.

Tuesday’s delays added to the image of an airline that has struggled with technology issues more than most.

“It was a 17-minute ground stop. This will have no lasting effect on Southwest’s reputation,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst at Atmosphere Research Group. “What matters now to Southwest is tackling the cause and doing everything in our power to ensure incidents like this don’t happen again.”

Rob Britton, a former American Airlines executive who teaches crisis management at Georgetown University, said the damage from Tuesday’s incident will be minor but will add to the erosion of Southwest’s image. He said Southwest had underinvested in technology while growing rapidly, and suffered from an “island culture” that “prevents them from looking outside for solutions.”

In December, Southwest canceled nearly 17,000 flights over a 10-day period around Christmas – destroying the holiday travel plans of more than 2 million people – when a winter storm halted operations in Denver and Chicago and the airline’s system to reprogram pilots and flight attendants. was exceeded.

These cancellations cost the airline more than $1 billion and led to an ongoing investigation by the Department of Transportation..

The airline’s unions said they warned management of problems with the crew scheduling system after a previous collapse in October 2021.

CEO Robert Jordan has embarked on a campaign to repair the airline’s damaged reputation. Southwest said last month it would add de-icing equipment and increase staff in winter weather cold enough to limit the time ground workers can stay outdoors.

Southwest Airlines Co. was the biggest drop among major airlines on Monday, falling more than 1%.

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