Southwest Prioritized Shareholder Gifts Instead of Tech Upgrades Union Demanded

As vacationers and airline staff reel from mass flight cancellations, a company watchdog famous Wednesday that Southwest spent almost $6 billion on inventory buybacks within the years forward of the coronavirus pandemic as a substitute of spending that cash technological enhancements that unions have been demanding for years.

In line with Accountable.US, the disaster Southwest has skilled in current days amid an enormous winter storm was “an issue of its personal making,” noting that the airline opted “to spend $5.6 billion on inventory buybacks within the three years main as much as the pandemic moderately than making investments in infrastructure to be higher ready for excessive climate occasions like this week.”

The watchdog group added that the corporate “even reinstated dividends earlier this month, the primary main airline to take action after the pandemic.”

“Southwest Airways made a dangerous gamble that mass layoffs and spending billions of {dollars} on handouts to traders moderately than fixing infrastructure would repay with document earnings,” Kyle Herrig, the president of Accountable.US, stated in an announcement. “The airline misplaced that wager badly and now it’s their prospects left paying the worth together with the 1000’s stranded in the midst of vacation season journey.”

“Southwest’s well-compensated executives might have prioritized its staff and prospects by getting ready for the worst, however greed trumped all as they put a small group of rich traders first,” Herrig added. “Shoppers shouldn’t be those caught holding the bag for Southwest’s grasping administration selections, however right here we’re. That is the place the Transportation Division ought to begin in any investigation into why this occurred”

Southwest has canceled greater than 5,000 flights this week — accounting for the majority of flights canceled within the U.S. — and delayed lots of extra, stranding vacationers and flight attendants, throwing vacation plans into chaos, and straining already-exhausted flight crews.

Unions representing flight attendants and pilots have stated that whereas the winter storm fueled a number of the cancellations, deliberate selections by Southwest administration had been in the end chargeable for what’s been described as the corporate’s “full-blown meltdown.”

Particularly, the vp of the Southwest Airways Pilots Affiliation told Insider that the corporate’s “outdated” scheduling software program has been overwhelmed, wreaking havoc on operations.

“After we get out of place, it’s a tricky activity for our schedulers to place it again collectively, and proper now they’re having to do it by hand,” stated Captain Mike Santoro, explaining that some flights had been unnecessarily canceled as a result of the airline’s system was unable to adequately maintain observe of workers.

Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Native 556, the union that represents flight attendants, informed an area information outlet that “that is the worst I’ve ever seen in my 27 years of working as a flight attendant for Southwest Airways.”

“Clearly, the impression of Winter Storm Elliott created the problems, however the Southwest Airways methods can’t get better as a result of we now have outdated know-how,” Montgomery stated.

The New York Occasions reported Wednesday that lots of the scheduling points “stem from the provider’s distinctive ‘point-to-point’ mannequin, by which planes are likely to fly from vacation spot to vacation spot with out returning to 1 or two fundamental hubs.”

“Most airways observe a ‘hub-and-spoke’ mannequin, by which planes sometimes return to a hub airport after flying out to different cities,” the Occasions famous. “When dangerous climate hits, hub-and-spoke airways can shut down particular routes and have plans in place to restart operations when the skies clear. However dangerous climate can scramble a number of flights and routes in a point-to-point mannequin, leaving Southwest employees out of place to renew regular operations.”

Randy Barnes, president of TWU Native 555, the union that represents Southwest floor staff, stated in an announcement Wednesday that “if airline managers had deliberate higher, the meltdown we’ve witnessed in current days might have been lessened or averted.”

“Floor staff want extra help,” Barnes added. “A lot of our folks have been compelled to work 16- or 18-hour days throughout this vacation season. Our members work laborious, they’re devoted to their jobs, however many are getting sick, and a few have skilled frostbite over the previous week. In extreme climate, it’s unreasonable for staff to remain exterior for prolonged durations. Individuals want to have the ability to cycle out and in of the chilly. The airline must do extra to guard its floor crews.”

Greater than 90% of the two,760 cancellations within the U.S. to date on Wednesday have been Southwest flights, according to information compiled by FlightAware.

The corporate’s large failures have drawn scrutiny from members of Congress and the U.S. Division of Transportation, which has stated it’s wanting into the cancellations.

“This has clearly crossed the road from what’s an uncontrollable climate state of affairs to one thing that’s the airline’s direct duty,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said late Tuesday in an look on NBC Nightly Information.

In a statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) equally argued that “the issues at Southwest Airways during the last a number of days transcend climate.”

“The committee can be wanting into the causes of those disruptions and its impression to customers,” stated Cantwell. “Many airways fail to adequately talk with customers throughout flight cancellations. Shoppers deserve robust protections, together with an up to date client refund rule.”