ST. LOUIS – Southwest Airlines is aiming to restore its flight schedule and return to normal operations by Friday after nearly one week of holiday travel troubles.
The airline has called off more than 15,000 flights over the past week. Southwest flight attendants’ union said the company’s system failures are to blame for the mass cancellations.
Passengers and their bags arrived together and on time again at Lambert Airport’s Terminal II on Thursday.
“I said to a flight attendant yesterday, ‘I’m really sorry. I’m sure this has been hard for you,’ and she said, ‘No, I chose this it’s my job. I’m sorry for you,'” said traveler Carol Simms.
Southwest Airlines employs 19,000 flight attendants. Crews said they were prepared for last week’s winter weather, but they were not prepared for system failures.
“I really hope that one of the things that come out of this is our management’s understanding that the frontline employees are the first place who can tell you when your plan on paper isn’t working,” said Corliss King, TWU Local 556 2nd Vice President.
King said the union has been in negotiations with the company for several years trying to get the system upgraded.
“We have to talk to a person. If those phone lines are flooded with hundreds of flight attendants who have needs that need to be met, and there are only 25 people on the other end of the phone, it is absolutely impossible for the operation to sustain that way,” said King.
She said backed-up phone lines created headaches for passengers and flight crews.
“As the face of this airline, we are experiencing the same thing our passengers are, except we’re lost in the system on top of it. Where they have no idea where you are. So that means they have no idea that they need to get your home, you can’t tell anybody to go home, and they don’t know where you are to give you that transportation home,” said King.
King said the company will have to work hard to earn back the trust of passengers and flight crews.
“We’re hoping that this is the wake-up call that our executives need, our management need to make the investment in the systems for the people who are the forward-facing image of southwest to the passengers,” said King.