مشاركات عشوائية

Southwest Airlines CEO: 'There's no way to apologize enough'

featured image

(CNN) — The Southwest Airlines boss has promised he will ‘fix’ passengers affected by his company’s disastrous holiday collapse as the carrier vowed to resume normal service on Friday.

“It impacted so many people — so many customers — over the holidays,” CEO Bob Jordan said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I am extremely sorry for this. There is almost no way to apologize enough.”

Jordan said refunds for passengers would cover travelers’ costs, including “rental cars, hotel rooms, meals, booking customers on other airlines – all of these will be part of this that we cover”.

“We offer reimbursements, covering expenses – we’ll walk away with even more after that,” he said. “Beyond safety, there is no higher priority at this point than taking care of our customers, getting them together with their bags, getting refunds processed.”

The airline’s difficulties began with the massive, freezing winter storm, but persisted — and even worsened — in Southwest as other major airlines recovered. Nearly 15,800 Southwest flights have been canceled since Dec. 22, in a disruption that has shaken the company to its core.

“It was just an unprecedented storm for everyone – for all airlines,” Jordan said. “The storm had an impact, but we had impacts beyond the storm which obviously had a very different impact on the southwest.”

Jordan said the airline will operate its full schedule of around 3,900 flights on Friday. The flight tracking site FlightAware shows that Southwest canceled 40 flights at 8 a.m. ET, or about 1% of its schedule.

“I’m very confident that we’re going to have a very tight operation today,” he said.

If those planes are back in the air and the piled up baggage mounds are reduced, it would certainly be a relief for passengers – and for the company. He has a mark on his back.

Senior US government officials are disheartened to say the least by how Southwest got to this point following a huge winter storm that every other major US airliner had under control just days ago.

And they demand Southwest get it right – or face financial repercussions.

What Southwest said about today

In a statement on Thursday – after another deadly day in which 2,362 more flights were canceled – Southwest said it hoped for minimal disruption over the New Year weekend.

“We are encouraged by the progress we have made in realigning our crew, their schedules and our fleet,” he said. “We know that even our sincerest apologies — to our customers, our employees and to all those affected by this disruption — go all the way,” the statement read.

We have created a page on southwest.com/traveldisruption for customers to submit claims and reimbursements for meals, hotel and alternative transportation; as well as to connect customers to their luggage.

However, that still doesn’t calm questions about how the airline’s systems could allow things to go so wrong and demand that they never happen again. And the Department of Transportation (DOT) still takes a firm line with Southwest.

DOT to the Southwest: Do the Right Thing for Passengers

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a letter to Southwest Jordan CEO that authorities will take action against the airline if it fails to deliver on promises to reimburse passengers for alternative transportation costs, as well as provide meals, hotels, refunds and baggage reunification.

Sanctions include the possibility of imposing fines.

“It would be an unfair and deceptive practice to breach this commitment to passengers,” Buttigieg wrote, specifically referring to alternative travel refunds.

“The Department will use the full extent of its investigative and enforcement powers to hold Southwest accountable if it fails to honor promises made to reimburse passengers for costs incurred for alternate transportation.”

These fines could be substantial.

“The airline told me they were going to go above and beyond what was asked of them,” Buttigieg said Thursday in an interview with NBC News. “I’m looking to make sure they actually do it, and if they don’t, we’re in a position to impose tens of thousands of dollars per violation per passenger in fines.”

Regrets and Reparations

A traveler looks at baggage in the baggage claim area inside the Southwest Airlines terminal at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday.

A traveler looks at baggage in the baggage claim area inside the Southwest Airlines terminal at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday.

Jeff Roberson/AP

The airline’s chief commercial officer, Ryan Green, expressed regret on Thursday over the collapse of services, promising to rebuild customer relationships that have sunk to rock bottom.

“My personal apologies are the first step in making things right after many plans changed and experiences did not meet your expectations,” Green said in a video.

“We continue to work to catch up with you, and you will continue to hear about it soon. But for now, we are focused on restoring the reliability and level of customer experience that we expect from ourselves, and you expect from us.”

His remarks came as Buttigieg made his own scathing assessment of Southwest’s troubles, calling the situation a complete “meltdown”.

“You have a business here that has a lot of cleaning to do,” he said.

A few understanding passengers

Some passengers took it all in stride and showed some sympathy for Southwest.

Several people at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport spoke to CNN’s Nick Valencia on Thursday about their travel experiences with the Southwest this holiday season.

“I mean, it’s just par for the course. It’s air travel, everyone’s trying to get everywhere at once. Unfortunately, Southwest has taken the brunt of this year’s unfortunate travel situation. “, Roderic Hister told CNN.

When asked what he thought of the lack of queues at counters in the southwest of the airport, Hister replied, “Maybe he’s talking about the improvements they’re trying to make. bring, because there are no long lines, people don’t complain here. So, maybe you know, efforts to redeem themselves work.”

Winston Williams, standing near Hister, said he intended to continue using the airline in the future. “I love Southwest. I mean the bags are free,” Williams said.

People want to know: What caused this?

Ask Southwest Airlines employees about their company’s technology. You won’t get many raves.

As Southwest has grown from a Texas-based low-cost airline operating three planes to one of the largest in the country, union officials representing Southwest workers say the company has not kept pace with the technological changes. And they say they have been causing concern for years.

“We’ve been harassing them every year since 2015,” Mike Santoro, captain and vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told CNN.

They and the airline itself described an internal process that requires multiple departments to manually redesign the airline’s schedule – a system that works “the vast majority of the time,” the airline said in a statement.

In the event of a problem, the Southwest software, including the Crew Planning System tool, leaves much of the work of rebuilding this tricky network to be done manually.

Tainted reputation

Elaine Chao, who served as transportation secretary during the Trump administration, described the Southwest Airlines outage as “a failure of incredible proportions.”

She told CNN it was “a perfect storm of everything that happened with the company. It will take them a very long time” to restore trust with consumers, she added.

Phil Dengler, co-founder of the travel advice site The vacationeragrees.

“It will take a long time for Southwest Airlines to regain public trust. While extreme weather has affected other airlines, Southwest has experienced a real meltdown at the worst possible time,” he said Thursday in an email to CNN Travel.

“A lot of Americans only fly once a year and they want a hassle-free experience. I think a lot of people are going to take a break when booking their next flight and they see Southwest Airlines as the best option cheaper,” Dengler said.

“While low prices are attractive, this collapse will encourage many travelers to explore other low-cost options.”

What customers should do

Dengler cautions to proceed with caution when it comes to these promised refunds.

“Southwest says, ‘We will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel and alternate transportation,'” he said. “While Southwest is vague on how much they will refund, I would avoid any expensive hotels or restaurants. Use Google Hotels to find nearby hotels near the airport where you are stranded.”

And he also warns against piling up a big tab.

Do some Google searches such as “free things to do near me”. I doubt Southwest will reimburse tours or other paid activities, so I wouldn’t book expensive excursions that you can’t afford.”

CNN’s Andy Rose, Andi Babineau, Adrienne Broaddus, Dave Alsap, Nick Valencia, Devon Sayers, David Goldman, Leslie Perrot, Carlos Suarez, Karla Cripps and Ross Levitt contributed to this story.

Post a Comment