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Southwest Senate testimony on holiday meltdown to tout fixes

A Southwest Airlines passenger plane lands at Chicago Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, December 28, 2022.

Kamil Krzaczynski | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines planning to apologize before Senate panel on Thursday on the carrier’s December meltdown, which has stranded tons of of hundreds of travelers over the Christmas period.

“Looking back, we did not have enough winter operational resilience,” Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson said in written testimony that was reviewed by CNBC ahead of the Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

Southwest canceled greater than 16,700 flights between December 21 and 31 as crew scheduling software did not sustain with the huge flight disruption attributable to the brutal winter weather from coast to coast. The disaster hit $800 million before taxes and led the carrier to a net loss in the ultimate quarter.

Watterson plans to inform the commission that the airline has made short-term improvements to speak more easily with crews when things go unsuitable, and has enhanced tools to trace the soundness of operations.

With these mitigation tools, “we’re confident in our flight network and schedules that we’ve got published on the market,” Watterson plans to say, in accordance with the testimony. “The Crew software update will give us a greater recovery experience after a large event cancellation.”

The chair of the commission, Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called the hearing as political pressure mounts over a series of flight disruptions last yr that raised, if not derailed, travel costs for hundreds of consumers.

Lawmakers also concentrate to air charges. President Joe Biden is pushing to crack down on seat fees, amongst other things, and mentioned the problem during his State of the Union address Wednesday night.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan, a veteran carrier with greater than 30 years within the position who has been within the position for a yr, is not going to attend Thursday’s hearing. A spokesman said Jordan had prior commitments, including a piece party.

The hearing may even include testimony from Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Pilots Union; Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Policy, Airlines for America, an industry group representing the nation’s largest airlines; Paul Hudson, president of the patron rights organization Flyers’ Rights; and Clifford Winston, a senior fellow on the Brookings Institution.

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