You can blame Southwest Airlines’ holiday catastrophe on outdated software

You can blame Southwest Airlines’ holiday catastrophe on outdated software

The flight schedule program was dead long before storms struck.

By

Andrew Paul
|

Published January 3, 2023 at 11:15 am

Southwest plane loaded with baggage on the tarmac

The debacle of last week was years in the making. Deposit Photos

Southwest Airlines flights depart from ().MostlyFollowing a Holiday week worth it Unprecedented cancellations left hundreds of people stranded Thousands of travelers All over the country. Many weary travelers are According to some, they are still waiting Others continue to be confused by the incident and express their desire to reunite with their luggage.

According to industry experts and Southwest’s CEO, the answer is scheduling software that allows employees to schedule. Debuted Around the same time as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.

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According to Multiple Recent rundowns The DebacleSkySolver, Southwest’s crew scheduling program, is partly to blame for the cascading failures last week.unacceptable” by Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation. Simply put, SkySolver was already close to the “End of its life“The program was nearly two decades old when winter storm Elliott hit, and it couldn’t cope with the scale required to handle multiple cancellations and delays. Actual Southwest employees had to manually match available planes with flight crews while complying with strict federal aviation worker regulations.

According to reports, Southwest pilots have asked company executives for an update of the “antiquated” systems Since at least 2015With the need for labor reforms and internal technology updates Cropping up In union negotiations Multiple times In 2022 alone. Despite all the warning signs, including a similar cancellation wave the holiday season last year–Southwest has done very little over the years, except for patchwork updates to SkySolver’s off-the shelf product.

The crisis grew as passengers and flight crews tried to contact Southwest representatives by phone. This resulted in wait times that were as long as 10 hours. Eight hours or more. These delays only exacerbated the already existing delays.

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Columbia University professor Zeynep Tufekci explained recently in an op-ed The New York TimesThis is largely due to “technical debt,” which refers to the gap between a company’s existing software and the necessary updates to keep it running. Tufekci relates that airlines were among the first to adopt automated scheduling systems. However, they haven’t done much to keep these systems current and scalable to meet modern markets and needs.

So, despite Southwest’s former CEO Gary Kelly praising the airline’s “excellent” performance,wonderful technology“In 2021, it experienced its first major earthquake. Multiple It has caused logistical collapses Adoptions that have been delayed for a long time Alternatives such as Cloud-based data systems It can handle even the most severe crises, such as winter storms. Also, a move away from largely phone-reliant software systems (such as Southwest flight attendants used last week to reschedule) would reduce congestion points. Travelers can expect future headaches unless companies like Southwest invest in modernizing their software.

Andrew Paul

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