Southwest Airlines employees plan to improve technology after holiday chaos

Travelers check in at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter during the busy Christmas holiday season at Orlando International Airport on December 28, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

Paul Hennessey | Anadolu Agency Getty Images

Southwest AirlinesThe CEO said the company would increase winter staffing and equipment to help avoid a repeat of the mass cancellations during the year-end holidays, which cost the company millions of dollars and stranded tens of thousands of travelers.

In a statement ahead of an investor conference, Southwest said it expected a loss in the first quarter after losing nearly $350 million in revenue last year due to holiday unrest that grounded more than 16,000 flights. The last 10 days of 2022 have been criticized by Washington.

Southwest expects unit costs excluding fuel to rise 6.5% this quarter, up from a forecast of no more than 4% growth in January.

The company purchases additional equipment to eliminate aircraft and increase staffing levels. Bitter temperatures during Winter Storm Elliott limited how much time crews spent outside, Southwest said.

The airline is also improving technology to better predict how long it will take to de-ice, and has improved one of its planning platforms to improve staff flights when things go wrong.

“We understand the root causes of the holiday disruption and we are validating our internal review with a third-party assessment. We now expect to reduce the risk of an incident of this magnitude happening again,” CEO Bob Jordan said in a press release. “The work on the implementation of the next short training activities is progressing well, some items have been completed.”

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