Southwest Airlines is doing damage control with corporate clients

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan will address corporate clients on Jan. 30 in an effort to assuage concerns about the carrier’s operational reliability.

In a letter to managed travel clients sent Monday evening, Jordan gave an overview of steps the carrier is taking to reduce the risk of future operational disruptions in the aftermath of a prolonged holiday meltdown following Winter Storm Elliott. 

The airline, Jordan said, has begun enhancing its crew engagement technology so that it can more efficiently communicate with large numbers of crew members during frequent schedule changes. That comes after pilots and flight attendants reported that the airline didn’t even know where they were located during the late December operational collapse.

Southwest has also begun a promised upgrade of its crew recovery system, which unions blamed for the collapse. The system still relies, in part, on phoned-in pilot reports of locations.

The system is being upgraded to improve regular scheduling challenges and to optimize established schedules as they are revised due to irregular operations, Jordan said. 

In addition, he said that Southwest has begun setting up supplemental operational staffing that would be able to be quickly mobilized when crew recovery efforts are underway. 

“It is our steadfast commitment to make the necessary changes to address the issues we faced and to regain your trust and confidence,” Jordan wrote in the letter. 

Southwest is budgeted to spend more than $1 billion annually on IT maintenance and upgrades.

The airline also says it is taking a deep dive into what went wrong over the holidays. The Southwest board has appointed a committee to conduct a review of what caused the operational collapse. In addition, Southwest has engaged the consulting firm Oliver Wyman to conduct an outside assessment. 

“We commit to keep you updated as we make progress on these efforts as well as additional steps to prevent an event like this from happening again,” Jordan wrote. 

Jordan will join Southwest chief commercial officer Ryan Green and chief sales officer Dave Harvey at the Jan. 30 virtual town hall meeting, which is to be held at 9 a.m. Central time. Managed Southwest corporate clients can join the call here.

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