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Tipsheet

Why Southwest Airlines Had to Ground All Its Flights Nationwide Today

Southwest Airlines cannot catch a break. Not long after this airline suffered a catastrophic collapse in its travel operations during the holiday season, which led to the cancellation of thousands of flights, a similar issue arose today: equipment failure led to 1,800 flights being temporarily grounded. A computer error was also blamed for the holiday mayhem that handicapped the airline, something that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was aware of but failed to act upon (via Associated Press): 

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Southwest Airlines planes were briefly grounded nationwide Tuesday for what the airline called an intermittent technology issue, leading to more than 1,800 delayed flights just four months after the carrier suffered a much bigger meltdown over the Christmas travel rush. 

The hold on departures was lifted by late morning, according to Southwest and the Federal Aviation Administration, but not before traffic at airports from Denver to New York City backed up. 

“Southwest has resumed operations after temporarily pausing flight activity this morning to work through data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure,” the Dallas-based airline said in a prepared statement. “Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall went down and connection to some operational data was unexpectedly lost.” 

Southwest urged customers to check on their flight status “and explore self-service options” for travel as the airline worked on restoring its operation. 

By midday on the East Coast, more than 40% of all Southwest flights were delayed, and the airline accounted for nearly two-thirds of all delays nationwide. On the positive side, Southwest had only about a dozen flights, according to FlightAware. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg retweeted an FAA post about the ground stop, adding, “We are here to ensure passengers have strong protections when airline failures like this affect their plans.” He referred travelers to a Transportation Department checklist of passenger rights, and his press secretary pointed out that “no other airlines experienced disruptions.” 

Tuesday’s delays added to the picture of an airline that has struggled more than most with technology issues.

“It was a 17-minute ground stop. This will have no long-lasting affect on Southwest’s reputation,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Atmosphere Research Group. “What matters now for Southwest is getting to the cause and doing all it can to ensure incidents like this don’t occur again.” 

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It’s part of an ongoing narrative that Southwest and Buttigieg share; they cannot get off the ground. Southwest seems incapable of being an operational company, beset by computer glitches. Buttigieg is incompetent at his job, presiding over train derailments and near-misses at airports and ignoring issues that could impact transportation services. Biden’s America is literally going off the rails or skidding off the runways.   

If you can’t manage America’s transportation system, Pete—you cannot be president. And we all know that’s a future ambition of yours.

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