February 3, 2023

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Southwest CEO maps out a recovery after holiday meltdown

2 min read

Travelers at Baltimore Washington International airport deal with the impact of Southwest Airlines canceling more than 12,000 flights around the Christmas holiday weekend across the country and in Baltimore, Maryland, December 27, 2022.

Michael McCoy | Reuters

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan’s message, after a holiday meltdown derailed the travel plans of millions, is clear: “I can’t say it enough. We messed up.”

Jordan’s focus now, he told CNBC in an interview, is ensuring a similar crisis never happens again. The airline has hired consulting firm Oliver Wyman to review its processes, interview staff and union members, lay out what went wrong, and determine how to avoid it in the future. The low-cost airline is working with General Electric to improve the capabilities of software that helps Southwest work out crew reassignments. The airline’s board has created an operations review committee to help managers work through such events.

The event was jarring for many travelers used to Southwest customer service, which includes policies like free checked bags, a rarity for domestic U.S. travel. Lawmakers and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said they want to look further into the disruptions.

Less than a year into the airline’s top job, in the aftermath of travel chaos he hadn’t seen in his more than three decades at Southwest, Jordan is now tasked with making things right with passengers and employees.

“We took good will out of the bank. We know that,” Jordan told CNBC. “We have work to do to repair trust, but our customers are very loyal and we’re seeing that loyalty.”

Southwest said it offered premium pay to flight attendants and $45 million in “gratitude pay” to pilots because of the meltdown. Both groups have warned about inadequate technology and scheduling for years.

The carrier has also handed out 25,000 Rapid Rewards points each, which the company estimates at a roughly $300 value, to about 2 million people who had flights booked over the chaotic holiday period,…



2023-01-25 16:40:08

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