Southwest Airlines flights nationwide were delayed Tuesday morning after a technical glitch prompted officials to briefly halt its departures, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
It is estimated that there were 1,700 flight delays Tuesday just four months after the carrier suffered a meltdown over the Christmas travel rush.
“This morning @SouthwestAir experienced a technical issue with one of their internal systems. At the airline’s request, the FAA paused Southwest’s departures as they resolved the issue. The pause has been lifted and their service has resumed,” the FAA stated on Twitter.
“Southwest has resumed operations after temporarily pausing flight activity this morning to work through data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure. Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall went down and connection to some operational data was unexpectedly lost,” the airline said in a statement.
In December 2022, Southwest Airlines, a major U.S. airline, and the second largest by domestic passenger volume, canceled more flights than usual, including more than 60% of its flights in two days. The disruption to operations was described by Seeking Alpha as the most costly and largest in the history of U.S. airlines. More than 15,000 flights were canceled throughout the crisis.
Starting from 0.8% in 2012, Southwest’s flight cancellation rate tripled to 2.4% by 2022. The airline has also had higher cancellation rates than other major airlines. Meanwhile, their flight-on-time rate has slid to its lowest level in 10 years.
Michael Santoro, the vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) indicated that Southwest has not invested in an updated software system. There have been complaints for a decade from members of the flight attendant’s union that the technology behind Southwest’s scheduling system is outdated. Earlier in 2022, SWAPA campaigned for Southwest, not for increased pay and benefits—the traditional goals of an airline worker’s union—but rather to pressure the airline to improve its crew scheduling technology. SWAPA said that the inflexibility of the airline’s scheduling system was causing it to cancel many delayed flights because the crew’s allowable duty hours were going to expire; the airline would then lose track of the crews, forcing them to sleep on airport floors or find hotel rooms themselves. The airline could not efficiently locate and dispatch backup crews to operate delayed flights, SWAPA said.
In June and October of 2021, Southwest suffered mass cancellation events. Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights during the October 2021 event, blaming a combination of weather, insufficient staff, and air traffic control.