Southwest Airlines exec to Senate: "We messed up"
A top Southwest Airlines executive, appearing at a Senate hearing on Thursday, plans to deliver another apology for the company's disastrous holiday meltdown.
Driving the news: "Let me be clear: we messed up," Southwest Airlines COO Andrew Watterson will tell the Commerce Committee before being grilled. "In hindsight, we did not have enough winter operational resilience."
Why it matters: Southwest's problems in December set off an intense round of scrutiny from both fliers and the federal government.
- More than 15,000 flight cancellations — sparked by severe weather, but exacerbated by the airline's business model and tech issues — left travelers stranded for days.
What went wrong: "[S]ub-zero temperatures, high winds, and frozen precipitation were worse than forecast, which had a wide-ranging impact ... especially at Denver and Chicago Midway," Watterson says in his testimony.
- Communication challenges "created an unprecedented amount and frequency" of crew changes that overwhelmed the airline's scheduling process and technology.
What's next: Watterson says Southwest has $1.3 billion budgeted this year for upgrades and maintenance for its IT system.