LONDON – Bob Jordan, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, has provided an update on the current status of the US carrier’s customer refund and reimbursement actions, following the widescale disruption to their flight operations over the Christmas period.
In a video and a written statement posted by the airline yesterday, CEO Bob Jordan advised the following.
Southwest Airlines CEO statement
“We disrupted holiday travel for millions when some of our systems and processes became stressed by Winter Storm Elliott, bringing disruptions that were far reaching. We are taking immediate steps to address the massive inconvenience as well as the issues that contributed to it.
I’ve said it before, but I can’t say it enough how sorry I am for the impact these challenges have had on our Employees and our Customers.
We have a long and proud record of delivering on expectations, and when we fall short, we aim to do the right thing.
In addition to our heartfelt apologies, we immediately began an all hands on deck effort to take care of our Customers. We are making great progress by processing tens of thousands of refunds and reimbursements a day and will not let up until we have responded to every impacted Customer.
We also sent a goodwill gesture of 25,000 Rapid Rewards Points this week to all Customers significantly disrupted. That goodwill gesture is above and beyond the refunds and reimbursements work that continues around the clock.
Since the moment our recovery started, we’ve had large teams of Employees reuniting disrupted passengers with their belongings. I’m pleased to share that as of today, we have the vast majority of these bags either reunited or on their way to our Customers.
Our Employees came together as they always do. It’s humbling to see the Southwest spirit at work under such adverse conditions.
Our Leadership team is focused on a thorough review of the disruption with all the needed resources involved, and I expect that work to be completed swiftly.
We’ve already taken immediate actions to mitigate the risk of this ever happening again, and the review work will inform additional actions and investment as well.
We’ve asked our unions to participate in this review effort as well, and likewise we are in regular communication with our Board of Directors.
As a company we spend about $1B a year on technology. And we’ll will continue to upgrade the tools and processes our Employees use to serve you, our valued Customers, and make sure those items deliver on our mission:
To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. We have a proud 51-year history of doing just that, and I’m confident we’ll continue to deliver on this all-important Promise.”
A lesson for the airline sector?
The recent situation with Southwest Airlines, which was widely characterized as a “meltdown” brings to light some telling lessons which should perhaps be heeded by the wider airline sector.
As the global industry recovers from an extended period of depressed air travel, which brought with it wide reaching impacts for the airline sector, the weakest links are being exposed all areas of operations.
As travel demand surges following a global environment which has been fraught with economic, social and geo-political pressures, the airline sector has emerged from a dormancy which has seen staff reductions and aircraft assets sitting idle.
If one cares to piece all the pieces of the jigsaw together, the cracks are evident – staff shortages and general unrest, industrial actions, aircraft and equipment shortages and technical breakdowns.
In the case of Southwest Airlines; evidence of an antiquated software system struggling to cope with the subsequent overload.
For anyone who has studied air incidents, this is a time when checks and balances weaken and potential fail. There are some lessons to be learned here by all industry operators.