Blizzard creates a ‘perfect storm’ for Southwest Airlines
Over 95 Southwest Airlines flights in Atlanta were canceled by Thursday morning, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
Southwest Airlines canceled 60% of its flights after a blizzard plummeted most of the country into below or near zero temperatures. However, as the weather warms up, most other airlines have recovered from the storm. Aviation researchers like William J. McGee, a senior fellow for Aviation and Travel at the American Economic Liberties Project, says Southwest Airlines is struggling to return to normal operations from more than just a storm. He describes how Southwest Airlines uses an outdated operating system.
"What you're doing with Southwest is, you're checking a bag from the first city to the second city, and then rechecking it into the third city," he said. "Whereas with American, Delta or United, you're checking a bag from the origin city all the way to the destination."
These extra steps needed for an operating system to communicate the location of a plane, pilot, passenger, or luggage can slow down the system, according to McGee.
Southwest Airlines uses a point-to-point model, a system that fell out of popularity after the federal government deregulated airlines in 1978. Most major airlines now use a hub-and-spoke system -- connecting planes, pilots, passengers, and cargo to a singular hub. According to Southwest Airlines officials, their operating system failed to inform pilots of their new schedules, causing more delays and cancellations. These communication lags also caused hundreds of thousands of travelers to be separated from their luggages, according to Southwest Airline officials.
Southwest Airlines has canceled over 5,500 flights in Georgia alone. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Monday that they are conducting a review of the airline.