In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan apologized to passengers and employees for a wave of cancellations that left travelers stranded in the wake of a brutal winter storm, and promised to “make good” to those impacted.
“This has impacted so many people, so many customers over the holidays,” Jordan told “Good Morning America” on Friday in a “frank” admission. “It’s impacted our employees and I’m extremely sorry for that.”
What You Need To Know
- In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan apologized to passengers and employees for a wave of cancellations that left travelers stranded in the wake of a brutal winter storm
- The Dallas-based airline canceled thousands of flights each day this week in the aftermath of last week’s winter storm, including more than 2,300 flights on Thursday alone
- Jordan also struck an optimistic tone, saying that the airline was “off to a great start” on its full schedule of more than 3,900 flights on Friday
- According to flight tracker FlightAware, Southwest has seen just 41 cancellations as of Friday morning, representing 1% of its schedule
“There’s just no way almost to apologize enough, because we love our customers, we love our people, and we really impacted their plans,” he continued.
The Dallas-based airline canceled thousands of flights each day this week in the aftermath of last week’s winter storm, including more than 2,300 flights on Thursday alone, far more than any other carrier.
Jordan called it an “unprecedented storm” for not just Southwest, but “for all airlines,” though he admitted that the weather “obviously impacted southwest very differently.”
“We had record temperatures that did things like froze jetways, froze aircraft, froze de-icing fluid,” the CEO said. “When you’re trying to solve a problem in so many locations, it becomes very, very difficult. Airlines count on the aircraft and the passengers and the crew members continuing to move and when all that shuts down in so many locations it becomes very, very tough.
“It really was the scope of the problems attempting to be solved, just to to move crews around keep the airline moving,” he continued. “We have great tools. We have regular operations, those tools and processes serve as well, but this is something that we have really never seen in our in our 51 years. And we’re making investments in our operational areas, like always.
“There’ll be lessons learned from this and we’ll continue to make more investments,” Jordan added.
But Jordan struck an optimistic tone, saying that the airline was “off to a great start” on its full schedule of more than 3,900 flights on Friday. According to flight tracker FlightAware, Southwest has seen just 41 cancellations as of Friday morning, representing 1% of its schedule, along with 237 delays.
“I’m very confident that we’ll operate a really tight operation today,” Jordan said.
The CEO also pledged to do right by those impacted, saying that “taking care of our customers” is their top priority other than safety.
“We’re offering refunds, covering expenses, we’ll be going back out with even more after that,” Jordan said, adding: “There is no greater focus at this point than taking care of our customers, reuniting them with their bags, getting refunds processed.”
Jordan pointed to resources the company has stood up to aid impacted customers, including a website to assist customers with reuniting with their bags, as well as a site to contact the airline to rebook or request a refund.
Federal regulators have vowed a rigorous review of what happened at Southwest, with all eyes on outdated crew-scheduling technology that left flight crews out of place after the storm hit, essentially shutting down almost all of the carrier’s operations.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a letter to Southwest CEO Robert Jordan late Thursday called the week of disruptions “unacceptable.”
“While weather can disrupt flight schedules, the thousands of cancellations by Southwest in recent days have not been because of the weather,” Buttigieg wrote. “Other airlines that experienced weather-related cancellations and delays due to the winter storm recovered relatively quickly, unlike Southwest.”
At airports across the country passengers had what could be described as a typical holiday week for travel. It was a stark contrast near Southwest Airline counters, where hundreds of people sat on bags or slept where they could, with the Southwest aircraft sitting on the tarmac yards away, but crewless.
Southwest begun accepting reservations again Friday after getting crews and planes into place, and executives have started on what is undoubtedly a long road to regaining the trust of travelers.
Jordan warned that the meltdown this week will “certainly” hit the carrier when it reports fourth quarter financial results at the end of January. Company shares, which tumbled 8% this week, fell slightly at the opening bell Friday in another down week for Wall Street.