After historic cancellations of over 12,000 flights last year in the midst of winter storms, Southwest Airlines is giving assurances that it is prepared for the busy winter holiday travel season this year. That should be good news, considering that over 7 million people are expected to travel this holiday season.
"We are very confident in the winter operational preparedness we’ve completed, and we’ve already seen positive signs during summer weather disruptions," spokesperson Tiffany Valdez told Kiplinger this week.
CEO Bob Jordan told Bloomberg the airline is "absolutely ready" for winter, after last year's problems cost the company almost $1.2 billion. And despite what many called a "meltdown," the airline says it has not seen an indication that customers are avoiding them for other airlines this winter. "It will never happen again," Jordan also said this week, according to CNBC.
Improvements Southwest Airlines has made
While there was difficult winter weather last December, Southwest was impacted much more heavily than other airlines. A tough mix of system, staffing and procedural issues led to those increased problems.
Since then, the company says it has made investments in improvements to its systems and tools. That includes improvements to its network health dashboards, flight crew support software and communication for coordination, according to Valdez.
"We now have our network planning and network operations teams under the same organization, allowing them to work together to make the best decisions quickly," COO Andrew Watterson said in October on the company's latest earnings call.
Additionally, the airline has invested in physical tools to ensure the planes are ready and able to fly even in the event of bad weather. That includes the purchase of more de-icing trucks and high-powered heaters, along with an investment in staff (and their training) for de-icing operations, per Valdez.
"We have been conducting de-icing summer school to make sure we have plenty of ramp agents trained and ready to go for de-icing," Watterson said.
The company put more of those types of investments, Valdez said, in airports that are more often impacted by winter weather and are flight-crew bases, which include Baltimore, Chicago Midway and Denver.
Whether you're heading out on a cheap last-minute vacation or one of Kiplinger's great places to buy a vacation home, these types of improvements should help give you some peace of mind. Happy travels!
Alexandra Svokos is the senior digital editor of Kiplinger. She holds an MBA from NYU Stern in finance and management and a BA in economics and creative writing from Columbia University. Alexandra has a decade of experience in journalism, specializing in online newsrooms. She previously served as the senior editor of digital for ABC News, where she directed daily news coverage across topics through major events of the early 2020s for the network's website. Before that, she pioneered politics and election coverage for Elite Daily and went on to serve as the senior news editor for that group.
Alexandra was recognized with an "Up & Comer" award at the 2018 Folio: Top Women in Media awards, and she was asked twice by the Nieman Journalism Lab to contribute to their annual journalism predictions feature. She has also been asked to speak on panels and give presentations on the future of media, including by the Center for Communication and Twipe.
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