Southwest says it expects normal operations to resume Friday
Weary Southwest Airlines customers may be able to breathe a sigh of relief with the airline planning to resume normal operations before the holiday weekend.
“… We plan to return to normal operations with minimal disruptions on Friday, Dec. 30,” the company posted on its website Thursday. The airline was continuing to adjust schedules and resources and said it was operating "roughly one-third" of its schedule for Thursday, canceling another 2,350 flights.
Southwest has canceled more than 13,000 flights since its meltdown began on Dec. 22.
Some passengers don’t want to chance another round of letdowns.
Cathy Lerner, 54, from Stony Brook, was renting a car at MacArthur Airport on Thursday after her Southwest flight to West Palm Beach, Florida, was called off earlier in the day.
“Now we’re just working on getting our vouchers from Southwest,” she said while preparing to drive to LaGuardia Airport, where she rebooked her flight on another airline.
Car rentals at the Town of Islip-owned airport spiked this week due to the debacle, and one worker at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental said he anticipated running out of vehicles Thursday.
An employee at the Avis and Budget car rental counter couldn’t address availability but suggested passengers check online.
At the Southwest counter, few passengers trickled in on Thursday. The FlightAware tracking service reported Southwest, a major carrier at MacArthur since 1999, canceled 14 flights there.
At LaGuardia, according to FlightAware, there were 64 total U.S. flights canceled into and out of the airport Thursday, and 59 of those cancellations were on Southwest.
The airline’s troubles unfolded after a massive winter storm ruined Christmas travel plans across the United States last week. While most airlines were up and running by Monday, Southwest continued to be marked by high rates of cancellations and delays that prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the airline's performance “unacceptable” after canceling 59% of flights Wednesday. He said the agency would ensure affected customers are reimbursed for tickets and expenses related to the disruption.
TWU Local 556, the carrier's flight attendants union, along with the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, previously warned company leaders that the carrier’s operating tools are outdated and need to be revamped to handle weather events and connect crew to aircraft.
The pilots union is calling for crew-scheduling software that considers the carrier’s point-to-point network.
“It’s been catastrophic. It’s been a failure at every level at Southwest Airlines. Our processes, our IT, our infrastructure just wasn’t there to support the operation and unfortunately our customers are bearing the brunt of it,” Casey Murphy, captain and president of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association, said in an interview earlier this week on ABC's "World News Tonight."
The technology was not able to link crews to planes, according to Chris Perry, a spokesperson at Southwest.
"As a result, our Crew schedulers are tackling the issue manually and that is a tedious, long process that takes time and trained resources to accomplish," Perry said in an email.