The Southwest Airlines meltdown will be the focus of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, with key officials from Southwest set to paint very different pictures about the state of the airline and root cause of the December collapse that stranded tens of thousands of travelers.
Internal Tensions Will Be On Full Display At Senate Hearing Over Southwest Meltdown
CEO Bob Jordan had a “scheduling conflict” and will not be present, but Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson will offer the following opening remarks:
“Let me be clear: we messed up. In hindsight, we did not have enough winter operational resilience. Please know that with the mitigations we have in place, we are confident in our flight network and the schedules we have published for sale.”
Translation: don’t worry about the man behind the curtain (old technology) because all will be okay. Watterson will tell Senators that an update to the General Electric crew scheduling system will shortly be launched and the carrier is open to investing over a billion dollars in long-term upgrades to its IT infrastructure. Part of that upgrade will be the ability to better communicate with crew members (many crew members had no idea what was going on, let alone assignments or hotels, during the meltdown).
However, Captain Casey Murray, President of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), will offer a very different picture of what is going on. Per the Wall Street Journal, Murray will tell the committee that Southwest ignored frequent warnings from the union and displayed a shocking amount of overconfidence leading up to the meltdown. The union also put out this statement:
SWAPA pilots have been sounding the alarm for years about Southwest’s outdated crew scheduling and IT processes and they have been summarily ignored. Captain Murray accurately predicted a major holiday meltdown during a SWAPA Number Podcast recorded just a month before Southwest’s catastrophic failure.
SWAPA and its pilots have a unique, data-driven perspective on Southwest’s systemic operational challenges. Southwest Airlines and its leadership must collaborate with SWAPA to overcome these challenges and create a better foundation for the future of the airline.
Captain Murray looks forward to answering the Committee’s questions and shedding light on problems that have been plaguing Southwest for years to ensure that our pilots and passengers have a reliable travel experience going forward.
The greater context of the meeting will be concerning adding consumer protections and Senate committee will also hear from the airline lobby and Paul Hudson, the President of Flyers’ Rights.
The Southwest apology tour will move to Capital Hill today, where COO Watterson will have to contend not only with skeptical Senators but a “see I told you so” pilots union. After yesterday’s failed rally with employees (pilots walked out), Southwest not only must invest in its technological infrastructure, but seek to make peace with its disgruntled pilots, who will very publicly blame Southwest leadership for all that has gone wrong (even beyond the December meltdown).
There’d be a grandstanding senator or two grilling WN but ultimately nothing will happen lol
And Jordan is a coward for not showing up. Some leader he is. Throw everyone else to the wolves.
Unless the CEO has some medical issue, there is no excuse not to show up. If you are running a company you have to take the criticism as well as the praise.
Southwest may walk in to Congress and blow smoke, but Congress is just as full of it. If Congress actually cared about the traveling public, they’d put protections in place to protect travelers during these all-too-regular meltdowns. It doesn’t have to exactly match EU261, but it could… or it could look like whatever Canada has. They could do something, but they don’t.
The only reason this hearing is happening is because the public wants to “see” it. As long as airlines and their executives continue to contribute to campaigns on both sides of the aisle, Congress will never take meaningful action that could regulate our aviation sector in the same manner as every other developed country does.
Hi Matthew, I think you might like this video. This YouTube channel–Wendover Productions–has almost 4 million subscribers and does videos primarily on logistics. I know you are beyond busy but if you can find the time to watch, it’s interesting and timely. While this specific video is narration driven, I find him excellent.
The Airline Industry’s Problem with Absolutely Ancient IT–https://youtu.be/1-m_Jjse-cs
Also, another great video of theirs, among so many, is about Amazon, and less narration driven.
How Amazon’s Super-Complex Shipping System Works–https://youtu.be/2qanMpnYsjk
Both are worth listening to..if you can carve out the time.
I’m OLD. I clearly remember REGULATION. Say what you want but deregulation isn’t the next best to white bread. With regulations all the airlines could do was COMPETE ON SERVICE. . Perhaps there could be a medium of regulations and competition in service