- Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told The New York Times that winter storms caused plane engines to freeze.
- He denied a tech failure caused the meltdown that forced almost 17,000 flights to be canceled.
- Jordan’s comments come after shareholders filed a lawsuit claiming the airline concealed problems.
Southwest Airlines’ CEO said aircraft engines froze and jetways wouldn’t move after a storm caused an operational meltdown that led to thousands of flights being canceled, The New York Times reported.
Bob Jordan told the newspaper that its problems quickly mounted after the storm hit and that it couldn’t keep up with the volume of cancellations and delays.
“We had jetways that wouldn’t move, and we had frozen de-icing fluid. We had aircraft engines that were frozen or iced, and on and on and on,” he said in the interview.
He added: “You’re trying to solve these problems. And as you’re solving them, you have more problems. More cancels, more problems; more cancels, more problems. We just couldn’t keep up with the volume — volume we’d never seen before.”
Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights, or 71% of its flight schedule, on December 26 for safety reasons.
It canceled almost 17,000 flights in December in total because of the meltdown.
One passenger, Olivia Laskowski, says she was stranded for four days with her cat after her flight was canceled. Another passenger, who is 14 years old, was stuck for 19 hours at an airport on Christmas Eve.
The CEO’s comments come a day after a group of shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against Jordan, its CFO, executive chairman and the airline, claiming that it hid problems that caused its meltdown.
Southwest expected the events to cost up to $825 million in lost revenue, passenger reimbursements, and other costs.
Jordan denied that its technology failed and told the Times it had just experienced an “overwhelming volume.” He added that it hired Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm, to independently investigate the event, per the report, and reiterated that he was responsible for what happened.
The airline told the Times it was working with GE Digital to develop new software. Its scheduling system, now called Crew Optimization, forecasts issues and offers solutions for crew scheduling.
Southwest didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider, made outside regular working hours.