Mechanical issues, and now computer glitches, have hampered Southwest Airlines' operations this month. Coupled with fallout from the government shutdown, it hasn't been a good year for the airline so far.
Southwest Airlines Co. experienced almost 600 flight delays nationwide Friday, according to tracking service FlightAware, after a computer problem caused the carrier to temporarily park its fleet.
The airline asked the Federal Aviation Administration to declare a “brief” ground stop after a glitch with software that automatically downloads flight plans to the agency, an FAA spokesman said in a statement. The delays represent about 15 percent of Southwest’s daily schedule, according to FlightAware. Flights also were affected by heavy fog in Dallas and by air traffic congestion in Houston.
The systems problem, which the Dallas-based airline said was resolved by about 5:30 a.m. local time, follows more than a week of increased flight delays caused by having more planes than normal out of service for mechanical issues. Southwest declared an “operational emergency” on Feb. 15, three days after the problem started, advising mechanics to show up to work as scheduled or risk losing their jobs.
On Friday, “the airline briefly suspended operations as teams worked to ensure performance of some of the airline’s software systems that were upgraded overnight,” Southwest said in a statement. The disruption lasted about 50 minutes, and resulting delays averaged 40 minutes, the airline said.
Southwest didn’t provide a number of delayed flights, but said none was canceled because of the computer system problem. About 80 flights have been scrubbed due to weather and the increased number of planes out of service, the airline said.
Southwest said Feb. 19 that it’s investigating the cause of the lingering flight disruptions, including any link to ongoing contract talks with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. The union has said Southwest is attempting to divert attention from safety issues with the claim.
The airline’s shares slid earlier this week after it reported that the federal government shutdown that ended in January — and the lingering impact on demand — would reduce first-quarter revenue by about $60 million. That compared with an earlier estimate of as much as $15 million for Jan. 1 through Jan. 23.
Revenue for each seat flown a mile will rise 3 percent to 4 percent this quarter, the carrier said. It previously projected that the closely watched measure of pricing power would increase 4 percent to 5 percent.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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Photo Credit: A Southwest Airlines jet is shown at LaGuardia Airport in this photo from Jan. 25, 2019. Julio Cortez / Associated Press
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