BusinessCompany News


Here's Why Southwest Is Canceling More Flights Than Other Airlines

Southwest is having issues the other airlines aren't because of a lack of investment in modern technology.
Posted at 12:12 PM, Dec 29, 2022

Over 11,000 Southwest Airlines flights canceled with passengers still stranded across the country. 

Plenty of culprits have been blamed, from winter weather to the labor shortage.  

But it seems there's another issue sticking out among the rest: a lack of investment in modern technology. 

"When you overlay the kind of unprecedented weather that we've had with any problems that exist in a system — for example, as Southwest management has indicated, issues regarding their own software, staffing issues and so forth — really become magnified," aviation attorney Mark Dombroff said. 

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan acknowledged that as a serious problem as recently as last month, and again in a video apology Tuesday. 

"Clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances," he said. 

DOT To Probe Southwest Cancellations That Stranded Flyers

DOT To Probe Southwest Cancellations That Stranded Flyers

Southwest Airlines canceled 2,900 flights Monday, according to FlightAware. Nearly 2,500 more flights had already been canceled as of Tuesday morning.


There are a couple of factors here.

First, unlike most of the other airlines, Southwest uses a point-to-point system. This means there's no centralized hub at major airports, like Delta's hub in Atlanta, or United's hub in Newark. Instead, it's easier to find a direct flight, rather than connecting through one of those hubs. 

With more planes in the sky, Southwest was able to make more money and the rest was history, until this holiday season.  

And then, there's the staff scheduling system.  

"Those tools that we identified back in 2016 and brought to the attention of the previous CEO, Gary Kelly,  this is basically what's happening now and that's the lack of infrastructure — our crew scheduling system and software that is not adequate and the massive reassignments with pilots and flight attendants to get them to the airplane," said Tom Nekouei, Southwest Airlines captain and 2nd vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.

Other major carriers, from American to Delta, also saw some cancellations over the holidays. But none of them saw near the same amount as Southwest. 

Over on Wall Street, shares of the company have been in the red since the start of the week.  

Some analysts say this fiasco could hit profits in the fourth quarter, even though there's only two days left.  

As the airline tries to iron out the issues, one expert says there's a universal lesson for the industry as a whole. 

"I think the main lesson is, we are at the mercy of mother nature," Dombroff said.