Southwest Airlines offered customers who were impacted by lost luggage during the holiday season meltdown 25,000 frequent flyer points, worth about $300. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association did not hold back in its criticism of the airline's handling of the recent holiday season meltdown that saw more than 15,000 flights canceled due to a system failure.
In a press release, SWAPA took aim at executives for the progressive deterioration of the company over the course of more than a decade. It dismissed the public relations handling of the recent fiasco, saying "system meltdowns" and "router brownouts" have become increasingly more frequent in the last 15 years.
"How did we get here? How did we go from the most stable and profitable airline in history to the greatest meltdown in airline history?" Capt. Tom Nekouei, 2nd vice president, said.
"As with most organizations, the answer can be distilled down to one word: Leadership. Actually, in our case, it's three words: lack of leadership."
While competitors were able to rebound from the chaos brought on by a historic winter storm striking nearly the entire United States on one of its busiest weeks, Southwest Airlines floundered. It accounted for the largest share of cancellations and delays by a wide margin, leaving customers furious and employees lost in the shuffle.
Nekouei argued that Southwest's current management has abandoned the principles of its founder, Herb Kelleher, only using his name, legacy and principles when facing public backlash. Nekouei laid the systemic failures of the airline, which culminated in the holiday disaster, at the feet of Gary Kelly, Southwest chairman and former chief executive officer.
"This is not a Southwest Airlines problem. This is not an employees of Southwest Airlines problem. This is not an unprecedented weather problem. This is a Gary Kelly problem. First to step forward over the years to take credit and accept all his CEO of the Year awards, Gary Kelly is nowhere to be found to step forward and take responsibility for this crisis that has his DNA all over the scene of the crime."
On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines informed customers who were impacted by the mass misplacement of luggage that they would receive 25,000 frequent flyer bonus points, which is worth about $300.
During New Year's weekend, the company said it completed more than 99% of its scheduled flights.
"In the new year, the urgent work continues on planned improvements to processes and systems that will bolster the ability of Southwest to recover effectively in large-scale disruptions of our operational plans," Southwest said in a press release.
"The lessons of the final week of 2022, and the Heart of our People for serving our Customers and each other will guide a multi-faceted plan to win back trust and repair relationships with those who count on Southwest to come through."