Southwest Airlines has laid out a three-point plan it says will help the carrier avoid future meltdowns that characterized its operational performance earlier this winter. Let’s explore what Southwest has pledged.
Southwest Airlines Offers Three-Point Plan To Avoid Future Meltdowns
Southwest created a “Tactical Action Plan” it hopes will avoid future meltdowns and accelerate its existing five-year “Operational Modernization Plan.”
First, it will speed up technological investments.
Accelerate Operational Investments: The airline began a five-year Operational Modernization Plan prior to December 2022 with many initiatives already underway to support operational resiliency. Now, ongoing implementation of tools and technology that allow for a greater pace of recovery during extreme events will be prioritized, and the airline is, currently, budgeted to spend more than $1.3 billion on investments, upgrades, and maintenance of information technology systems in 2023. For example, Crew Optimization software has been recently upgraded to address a functional gap that was revealed in December. Crew Scheduling and Customer phone systems also will be upgraded for better surge protection and efficiency during periods of high call volumes.
The recent meltdown occurred not because of the weather (other airlines faced the same weather and did not suffer a meltdown) but because Southwest’s dated systems undergirding crew scheduling could not keep up. Immediately accelerating investment in this technology marks a critical first step.
Second, Southwest will acquire additional equipment like de-icing trucks and engine heaters to help respond more quickly to cold weather and keep operations running.
Winter Operations: Challenges with infrastructure, winter equipment, and winter weather preparedness have been, or will be, addressed through various actions, including purchasing additional deicing trucks; securing additional deicing pads and deicing fluid capacity at key network locations; and purchasing more engine covers and engine heaters for cold weather operations. Southwest was the first U.S. airline to hire back to pre-pandemic total staffing by June 2022, and, going forward, the airline will further augment winter staffing levels—for example, when Ground Operations Employees are limited to the amount of time they can work outside in extreme temperatures. Additionally, the airline plans to implement a new weather application to provide Crews with more real-time and dynamic weather indications to enhance deicing holdover times—which determines the time required before aircraft must be deiced again prior to departure.
Southwest encountered particular problems in Denver, where employees were warned they were not allowed to call in sick. This technology will be helpful, but Southwest also needs to ensure it has the backup manpower without having to threaten its employees.
> Read More: Southwest Airlines Suffers Meltdown In Denver
Finally, Southwest promises more collaboration among employee groups.
Cross-Team Collaboration: Actions have already been taken to align various Network Planning and Network Operations Control Teams under one Senior Leader for better execution of operational plans. Additionally, data on early-indicator dashboards has been enhanced to highlight key operational metrics, and the airline will better integrate aircraft and Crew recovery decision making and optimization.
That sounds important, though it is not clear what will practically change. How will this info be integrated?
Southwest hopes that by investing in new technology and additional equipment it can avoid the sort of meltdown that stopped it in its track for many days in December. While that remains to be seen, these investments are an important start.
Interesting that they ignore one of the biggest reasons…lack of experienced operations staff to put it all back together.
I’ve been in multiple SOC’s since COVID started and they all say the same thing…we lost our most experienced people and there was literally no hand off.
Let this be yet another lesson of the COVID lockdown stupidity .
just fyi – that italicized font looks horrible and completely illegible on desktop.
Try reading this web page with an iPad.
The overlay of the advertisements and preview of other articles sucks up tremendous real estate.
I use the Reader View feature just to bypass all the insane clutter on the screen.
Software only goes so far. It’s the folks in the trenches who keep things running in a winter storm. Baggage handlers, de-icing crews, gate agents, ground crews, etc. If senior leadership has no respect for these folks, the flights will come to a screeching halt.
Time will tell if the billions of dollars are well spent.
Why has Southwest decided, heretofore, to have deaf ears to its Pilots, Flight Attendants, and Ground Crew who have repeatedly warned Management that the “pipes” have been leaking for sometime and are about to burst? . Southwest Management, due to its deafness and arrogance in not listening to front line employees, brought this mess upon the entire company.