- Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told The New York Times that winter storms caused plane engines to freeze up.
- He denied that a technical failure caused the collapse which forced the cancellation of nearly 17,000 flights.
- Jordan’s comments come after shareholders filed a lawsuit claiming the airline covered up issues.
The CEO of Southwest Airlines says plane engines froze and jetways won’t move after a storm caused an operational meltdown that led to the cancellation of thousands of flights, The New York Times reported.
Bob Jordan told the newspaper that his problems escalated quickly after the storm passed and he couldn’t cope with the volume of cancellations and delays.
“We had catwalks that weren’t moving and we had frozen de-icing fluid. We had airplane engines that were frozen or iced up and so on,” he said in the interview.
He added: “You try to solve these problems. And as you solve them, you have more problems. More cancellations, more problems; more cancellations, more problems. We couldn’t just not keeping up with the volume – volume we had never seen before.”
Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights, or 71% of its flight schedule, on Dec. 26 for safety reasons.
It canceled nearly 17,000 flights in December in total due to the collapse.
A passenger, Olivia Laskowski, says she was stranded for four days with her cat after her flight was cancelled. Another passenger, aged 14, was stranded for 19 hours at an airport on Christmas Eve.
The CEO’s comments come a day after a group of shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against Jordan, its chief financial officer, executive chairman and the airline, claiming he was hiding the issues that caused its collapse.
Southwest expected the events to cost up to $825 million in lost revenue, passenger refunds and other costs.
Jordan denied the failure of his technology and told the Times that he had just experienced “crushing volume”. He added that he had hired Oliver Wyman, a consultancy, to independently investigate the event, according to the report, and reiterated that he was responsible for what happened.
The airline told The Times it was working with GE Digital to develop new software. Its planning system, now called Crew Optimization, predicts problems and offers solutions for crew planning.
Southwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider, made outside of normal working hours.