Southwest Flight Cancellations Extend to Second Day on IT Outage

  • Airline dropped 335 flights on Thursday, 700 on Wednesday
  • Failed equpment, backup triggered 12-hour network problems

Southwest Airlines Co. customers struggled for a second day as the carrier worked to recover from a technology failure that grounded some planes and prevented travelers from checking in for flights.

The Dallas-based carrier canceled 335 of its 3,900 daily flights Thursday after dropping 700 from its Wednesday schedule following the mid-afternoon crash of its network. The “vast majority” of operating systems were running by early Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said.

The disruption occurred when an unspecified piece of equipment failed and a backup system also malfunctioned, Kelly said in an interview. The carrier has been working to replace much of its “old technology” that may have caused the problem, which didn’t appear to be related to a system crash that occurred in October, he said.

“We’ll still have a rough day today,” Kelly said. ‘Hopefully by the end of the day it will be smoothed out.”

Stuck in Vegas

Cancellations stretched into Thursday as the airline worked to get crews and planes in position for flights. Megan Bell said she was stuck overnight in Las Vegas after her connecting service to California was canceled. The Nashville, Tennessee, resident was still waiting for a flight Thursday morning.

“I’m stuck in a city because their systems aren’t working and yet, I’m footing the bill,” Bell, who’s traveling to Napa Valley with her 60-year-old mother to celebrate the older woman’s birthday, said in an e-mail. “The lack of communication and any accommodation/compensation is horrific.”

Southwest warned passengers to expect longer-than-normal lines at airports and to arrive early. It said “flexible booking accommodation” is available for travelers holding tickets for flights Wednesday through Sunday.

“We have some customers that spent a long amount of time in the airport and didn’t get out last night and some of them still are not out,” Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s chief operating officer, said in a video posted on Facebook.com. “I appreciate how incredibly frustrating that can be.”

The airline extended a fare sale that was underway when the disruption began and said it would comment “in the next day or so” on compensation for affected passengers.

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