Southwest CEO Compares Major Outage To “Once-In-A-Thousand-Year” Flood

Image courtesy of David Transier

UPDATE: The union representing Southwest’s pilots has called for CEO Gary Kelly to resign following last week’s fiasco.

You might recall the massive technical outage that hit Southwest Airlines last week, canceling 700 flights and snarling travel plans for thousands of people. That was a bad thing, the airlines CEO Gary Kelly says, but Southwest will move past it, comparing the issue to an infrequent natural disaster.

The issue was traced back to the failure of a single router at Southwest Airlines’ Love Field data center, at least, that’s what the company thinks right now. Though it had a backup system in place, the way that it failed was so rare the company couldn’t quite have prepared for it, Kelly says.

“What’s unique is the partial failure, it’s never happened,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “This isn’t a drill you can run.”

Things returned to normal a few days later, but there’s still a backlog of customer service requests to be processed, which means the company needs to focus on fixing its relationship with those folks, Kelly says.

“We’re mainly focused on winning back our customers that we didn’t serve well,” Kelly said. “We care about that.”

Going forward, Kelly says he’s confident that the company can learn lessons from the incident that could help the airline better recover the system during future disruptions.

And though the outage was bad news for Southwest and likely left a sour taste in many customers’ mouths, Kelly said the event won’t define the airline going forward, which he says is known for its customer service.

“I don’t think it changes anything in the grand scheme of things. This is a 45-year-old company and a really good one,” he said. “It seems to me this is the once-in-a-thousand-year flood, but we’re going to make darn sure that’s the case.”

Southwest CEO: Router failure that grounded flights equated to ‘once-in-a-thousand-year flood’ [Dallas Morning News]

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