Today, February 9th, Southwest Airlines will testify before a US Senate committee concerning the massive wave of flight disruptions that took place in the last weeks of 2022. During the hearing, the airline is expected to apologize to the committee for the meltdown, which caused millions of travelers to become displaced or have their holiday plans ruined. This hearing is one of several key steps US lawmakers are taking as they probe ongoing problems in the US air transit industry that have arisen in recent months and years.

House hearing

During the Senate hearing entitled “Strengthening Airline Operations and Consumer Protections,” the COO of Southwest Airlines, Andrew Watterson, will testify regarding the meltdown. It is anticipated that he will apologize to the committee and the American people affected by the widespread system failures. Watterson is expected to apologize for the 16,700 flight cancelations and issue a pledge from the airline ensuring that something of this scale never happens again.

Southwest Airlines at Airport in Winter Snow

Photo: Denver International Airport

According to Reuters, Watterson said the following in a written testimony concerning the hearing,

“Let me be clear: we messed up. In hindsight, we did not have enough winter operational resilience,”It caused a tremendous amount of anguish, inconvenience, and missed opportunities for our customers and employees.”

Watterson went on to share how the airline is working to ensure something like this never happens again, stating,

“We are doing a system-wide review of our preparedness for winter operations and will implement any measures necessary to mitigate the risk of an event like this occurring in the future,”

In addition to Watterson’s testimony, the committee expects to hear testimony from the President of Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), Casey Murray. According to Reuters, Murray is expected to testify that the meltdown occurred due to the airline’s overconfidence and a failure to implement and utilize proper technologies in running the airline’s ginormous operation. In a written statement, Murray has attributed the shortcomings to,

“Poor planning, systemic under-investment in crew scheduling technology and processes, and a failure to collaborate with frontline employees.”

He went on to state that Southwest leadership has,

“Inherited a massive, complex operation held together by duct tape and baling wire. It will take time to tear down and rebuild.”

Additionally, a representative for Southwest Airlines has shared with Simple Flying that the company is excited about this opportunity to answer the questions of US lawmakers. The representative stated,

“We welcome the opportunity to answer questions today for Senators and their staffers and grateful for the invitation extended to our Chief Operating Officer to do so.”

Small piece of a large puzzle

It is unclear what the result of this hearing will be. The committee will likely take any action against Southwest it deems necessary after the hearing. However, this decision may not come immediately as this hearing is part of a much larger probe into the aviation industry. Federal government bodies have been investigating various problems within the industry this year. Two Days ago, the Department of Transportation stood before congress and was questioned regarding the system failures of January 11th, which led to thousands of flight disruptions.

Southwest Tails

Photo: Denver International Airport

Congress is also investigating several near misses between airliners at airports across the country. This past year the industry has shown many of its faults and deficiencies as air travel demand has returned. These deficiencies have arisen at every level, from staff shortages to scheduling system problems. US lawmakers hope that by investigating and addressing these issues, they can better hold responsible parties accountable and improve aviation safety and reliability.

What do you think of this upcoming hearing? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Reuters, The Hill

  • Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 San Francisco

    Southwest Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Low-Cost Carrier

    Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dallas Love Field, Denver International Airport, Harry Reid International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Houston Hobby Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Midway International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Robert Jordan

    United States


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