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Southwest’s Silver Lining: Memories of Gaffes Fade Fast

  • Crisis experts see low long-term risk from massive flight cuts
  • Some travelers are likely to book elsewhere in the near term
A traveler looks for their luggage in the Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California. 
A traveler looks for their luggage in the Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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Southwest Airlines Co.’s 2022 nightmare before Christmas is unlikely to inflict long-lasting damage to the carrier’s reputation if management compensates customers and makes good on vows of operational changes, communications and management professionals say.

In recent days, social media has been flooded by angry Southwest customers after storms and shaky computer systems forced the airline, the largest domestic carrier in the US, to cancel more than 13,000 flights. Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan has issued multiple apologies while employees work overtime to clean up the mess, which officials in Washington vow to scrutinize.