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Southwest Targets Expanded CX for Recovery and Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing if not a grueling test for the airline industry, but Southwest is using the lessons it’s learned as a springboard for ongoing growth.

COVID-19 may have battered the travel industry to an unprecedented degree, but for technology leaders at Southwest Airlines, the experience has also taught some valuable lessons. Today, the airline is using that insight to chart a new course for the future.

“We have learned a lot about our existing system capabilities,” says Jeff Jones, vice president of commercial and customer technology with the airline. For example, “in the early days of the pandemic, the number of schedule revisions was astronomical—no one ever anticipated volumes like that. We saw some areas we needed to reinforce, and we made a lot of improvements.”

Business plummeted as the pandemic took hold, recounts Jim Dayton, vice president of air and ground operations technology. “We went from 4,000 flights a day to fewer than 1,500; those we did run were close to empty,” Dayton says. Yet even as the airline cut external IT support by 40% and reduced its technology budget by about 50%, it still delivered on 75% to 80% of its 2020 goals. “We have learned a lot about efficiencies, resilience, team sizes, and teamwork.”

Excerpt from WSJ

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United Airlines Briefly Grounds Flights in U.S., Canada

Grounding lasted 45 minutes; technical system issues have been resolved.  The United grounding lasted from 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. ET. United Airlines Holdings Inc. grounded its flights in the U.S. and Canada Friday morning because of technical problems.  The grounding lasted from 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. ET, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This morning we experienced technical system issues that impacted our operations and have since been resolved. All systems are now working normally and we are working diligently to get customers to their destinations,” the company said.

Excerpt from WSJ

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FAA Chief Urges Care to Avoid Safety Risks as Airlines Ramp Up

The aviation-safety regulator sends a letter to carriers pointing out potential risks

U.S. air-safety regulators want airlines to stay on top of potential safety issues like employee fatigue as carriers race to keep up with a surge in demand for flights.

Regulators haven’t seen any alarming trends emerge in data collected from airlines, Federal Aviation Administration officials said, but this week the agency alerted industry groups to potential problems that could lead to incidents or accidents. Carriers have been bringing back furloughed workers, taking planes out of storage and adjusting flights with consumers returning to air travel.

“While we are all excited about the burgeoning recovery of passenger traffic, airlines should look across their operations for additional ways to increase predictability and provide stability to the system. More certainty reduces safety risks,” FAA chief Steve Dickson said in a Thursday letter to industry groups.

In a memo that accompanied the letter, the FAA recommended that carriers remain vigilant about possible fatigue-related errors among front-line employees and distractions for pilots, such as discussions in the cockpit about the pandemic.

Excerpt from WSJ

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Southwest Airlines Says Delta Variant Is Hurting Its Business

Carrier sees bookings slow and cancellations rise in August as Covid-19 surge continues

Southwest Airlines Co. LUV 2.01% said the recent surge in Covid-19 cases is causing bookings to slow and cancellations to rise, showing how quickly the Delta variant is denting economic activity.

The airline said Wednesday that while demand for the key Labor Day weekend remained healthy, the recent slowdown would make it difficult to turn a profit in the third quarter, excluding the impact of government payroll assistance. That is even after a fare sale designed to stoke the return of business traffic in the fall.

Southwest’s move reverses airline executives’ bullish tone just a few weeks ago, with rising Delta-variant infections prompting the cancellation of festivals and trade events such as the New York Auto Show planned for later this month.

Some consumers are reconsidering activities like travel and eating at restaurants as the surge leads certain retailers and municipalities to reimpose mask mandates.

Excerpt from WSJ

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