Southwest Airlines took another blow to its reputation on Tuesday, after technical issues forced the company to briefly halt all flights across the country, grounding more than 2,400 flights.
The suspension of outbound flights supported traffic at airports from Denver to New York City, and came just four months after the Southwest suffered a much bigger meltdown due to the Christmas travel rush.
In a statement, the carrier blamed Tuesday’s outage on “data connectivity issues caused by a firewall failure,” adding: “Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall crashed and lost connection to some operational data unexpectedly.”
The FAA said it has issued a nationwide ground stop on all Southwest flights at the airline’s request as it works through technical issues. The no-fly zone was lifted by mid-morning.
Although the latest disruption was far less severe than the massive collapse Southwest suffered in December, it raised questions about CEO Robert Jordan’s pledge to upgrade and modernize the carrier’s systems to prevent such malfunctions.
Southwest Airlines took another blow to its reputation on Tuesday, after technical issues forced the company to briefly halt all flights across the country.
In a statement, the carrier blamed Tuesday’s outage on “data connectivity issues caused by a firewall failure,” adding, “Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall crashed and lost connection to some operational data unexpectedly.”
In the December crisis, more than 17,000 Southwest flights were canceled over a ten-day period, after the airline said its crew scheduling system collapsed under the weight of disruptions caused by a major winter storm.
The cancellations ruined the vacation travel plans of over two million people, and cost the airline more than $1 billion.
The carrier upgraded its systems in the aftermath of that disaster, saying in a March 14 press release that work is underway to implement the improvements.
Asked if the latest disruptions were related to tech upgrades, Southwest did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com out of business hours on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s disruptions resulted in only 18 flights being canceled, on par with other major airlines, according to data from FlightAware.
However, 2,404 Southwest flights were delayed, which was 57 percent of the airline’s schedule for the day, causing aggravation and inconvenience to passengers.
This disruption added to Southwest’s reputation as an airline that suffered more than most from technology problems.
The damage from Tuesday’s incident will be minor, but it will further erode Southwest’s image, Rob Britton, a former American Airlines executive who teaches crisis management at Georgetown University, told the Associated Press.
Southwest, he said, did not invest in technology while it was growing rapidly, and suffers from an “isolational culture” that “prevents them from looking for solutions abroad.”
Henry Hartfeldt, a travel analyst with research group Atmosphere, told the Associated Press that Tuesday’s incident “will not have a long-term impact on Southwest’s reputation.”
“What matters now for Southwest is getting to the case and doing everything it can to ensure that incidents like this don’t happen again,” said Hartveldt.
Unlike other major carriers, Southwest does not use commercial crew scheduling software, but instead relies on proprietary systems created and maintained in-house, called SkySolver and Crew Web Access.
Insiders say software frequently crashes and crashes, forcing crew members to call wayfinders during turbulence, according to Dallas Morning Herald.
Southwest Airlines planes were grounded for more than an hour on Tuesday due to a technical issue with the carrier’s firewall systems — resulting in more than 1,900 delays and cancellations.
At 11:10 a.m. — after nearly an hour and a half — the FAA lifted the pause — writing in a vague statement that Southwest had “experienced a technical problem” with one of its systems.
The December crash led to an ongoing Department of Transportation investigation and a congressional hearing during which lawmakers complained that Southwest provided little or no assistance to stranded travelers.
Senator Maria Cantwell, R-Washington, who led the hearing, said Tuesday’s collapse “is further evidence that Southwest Airlines needs to upgrade its systems and stop negative impacts on individual travelers.”
Airline unions said they had warned management of problems with the crew scheduling system after the previous crash in October 2021.
CEO Robert Jordan has embarked on a campaign to repair the airline’s damaged reputation.
Southwest said last month it would add snow removal equipment and increase staffing during winter weather that is cold enough to limit the amount of time ground workers can stay outside.
On Tuesday, shares of Southwest Airlines fell about 1 percent, while those of its closest competitors – American, Delta and United – rose at least 1.5 percent.