Southwest Airlines’ staffing, tech improvement plan after holiday mess

Southwest Airlines’ staffing, tech improvement plan after holiday mess

Travelers check in at a Southwest Airlines ticket booth during the busy Christmas holiday season at Orlando International Airport December 28, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

Paul Hennessy | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Southwest AirlinesThe CEO said the company will increase staffing and equipment over the winter to avoid a repeat of mass cancellations over the year-end holiday that have cost the company millions of dollars and stranded tens of thousands of travelers.

In a filing ahead of an investors’ conference, Southwest said it still expects a first-quarter loss after a revenue slump of up to $350 million resulting from the aftermath of last year’s holiday chaos, when it canceled more than 16,000 flights in recent 10 days of 2022, drawing criticism from Washington.

Southwest expects unit costs excluding fuel to rise up to 6.5% year over year this quarter, which is higher than January’s forecast of an increase of no more than 4%.

The company will buy more equipment to de-ice planes and increase staffing levels. Bitter temperatures during Winter Storm Elliott limited the time crews could spend outdoors, Southwest said.

The airline will also upgrade technology to better predict how long deicing might take and has upgraded one of its planning platforms for better staff flights if things go wrong.

“We understand the root causes that led to the holiday disruptions and validate our internal review with third-party assessment. Now we expect to mitigate the risk that an event of this magnitude ever occurs again,” CEO Bob Jordan said in a press release. “Work is underway to implement action items to prepare for next winter – some items have already been completed.”