(The Hill) – Southwest Airlines is looking to restore its flight schedule by Friday after canceling more than 15,000 flights over the last week, potentially bringing relief to stranded holiday travelers.
The airline has scheduled just 39 cancellations for Friday, according to data from flight tracking website FlightAware, after shutting down nearly 2,400 flights on Thursday and 2,500 on Wednesday.
“Right now it looks like a pretty smooth operation as we head into this transition tomorrow to allow us to resume operations on Friday at our normal schedule, which is a big step up,” Southwest chief operating officer Andrew Watterson said in a message to employees Wednesday evening, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Southwest’s archaic scheduling systems went haywire after winter storms hit its hubs in Denver and Chicago, making it difficult to route pilots and flight attendants to the right plane.
The airline was forced to cancel nearly two-thirds of its flights for much of the week to restore stability.
“A systemic failure of Southwest Airlines leaders to modernize, support, and staff its operation leaves every frontline employee, pilots included, tired of apologizing to our passengers,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said in a statement Wednesday.
The meltdown, which has disrupted the holiday plans of millions, has drawn federal scrutiny from prominent lawmakers and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has pledged to ensure that stranded travelers are reimbursed for unexpected food, travel and lodging costs.
“We’ve never seen a situation, at least not on my watch, with this volume of disruptions, so this is going to take an extraordinary level of effort by Southwest. And we will mount an extraordinary effort to make sure that they’re meeting their obligations,” Buttigieg said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan issued a video apology Wednesday and acknowledged that the airline must update its scheduling systems.
“The tools we use to recover from disruption serve us well 99 percent of the time, but clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what’s happening right now,” Jordan said.