Southwest Airlines says it expects normal operations on Friday after thousands of cancellations

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Travelers at Baltimore Washington International airport deal with the impact of Southwest Airlines canceling more than 12,000 flights around the Christmas holiday weekend across the country and in Baltimore, Maryland, December 27, 2022.
Michael McCoy | Reuters

Southwest Airlines confirmed on Thursday that it expects to run a normal schedule on Friday after the carrier’s systemwide meltdown stranded hundreds of thousands of customers over the Christmas holiday week and drew scrutiny from Washington.

The carrier cancelled 39 flights scheduled for Friday, according to FlightAware, down from more than 2,300 Thursday.

The low-cost airline slashed schedules over the last several days, flying just about one-third of its planned flights, in an desperate effort to stabilize its operation, getting planes and crews where they needed to go.

“We have all hands on deck and tested solutions in place to support the restored operation. I’m confident, but I’m also cautious,” CEO Bob Jordan said in a staff memo Thursday.

The airline also resumed selling tickets for Friday, after a pause it implemented before it stabilized its schedule, Jordan said.

“With another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued Customers and Employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy,” the airline said in a statement on its website.

Southwest’s operation unraveled over the holiday week after brutal winter weather swept across the U.S. When most airlines had recovered at the end of last week, Southwest’s problems worsened. Executives cited challenges including overloaded internal scheduling platforms crucial to getting crews matched with flights.

“We have much work ahead of us, including investing in new solutions to manage wide-scale disruptions,” Southwest said in its statement.

Some competitors said they would cap fares for certain cities to help stranded Southwest passengers reach their destinations without surging prices, but fare searches on Thursday still returned some flights for $600 or more.

The moves came after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged carriers to cap fares.

Southwest shares were up more than 4% in afternoon trading on Thursday, paring its losses this week to 7%, which is still far more than its close rivals. CFRA Research said Thursday the stock is still a buy, though.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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