Southwest Airlines experienced some turbulence this morning, but the skies are blue again and its horizon is clear once more.
The problem appears to have started around 10:30 a.m. Eastern today but was resolved within about an hour.
“This morning @SouthwestAir experienced a technical issue with one of their internal systems,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wrote on Twitter. “At the airline’s request, the FAA paused Southwest’s departures as they resolved the issue.”
Southwest then wrote on Twitter that the flight delays were due to “intermittent technology issues.” A spokesperson for the airline then added, “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we’re hoping to get everyone going ASAP,” in the same post on Twitter.
A short while later, the FAA announced that the pause had been lifted and Southwest’s service had resumed.
When Southwest announced in a Travel Advisory that it had resumed operations again, the airline also stated, “Our heartfelt apologies to Customers whose journey with us today might be delayed.”
Although the flight stoppage was relatively brief, it did have consequences. Indeed, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com, Southwest had delayed 2,091 flights, or 50 percent, as of 3 p.m. Central Time.
Detailing What Happened
So, just what, exactly were those “technology” issues at Southwest today?
“Southwest has resumed operations after temporarily pausing flight activity this morning to work through data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure,” the airline wrote on its website.
“Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall went down and connection to some operational data was unexpectedly lost. Southwest Teams worked quickly to minimize flight disruptions.”
The problem, as some passengers on planes sitting on tarmacs across the country noted on social media, is that the delay came just months after Southwest was forced to cancel more than 16,700 flights between December 20 and 29.
Southwest noted at the time that part of the problem was due to changes to its staff scheduling computer systems, but also that a significant winter storm was more sudden and severe than predicted.
Bob Jordan, Southwest’s president and CEO, later noted in a statement that “outsized impacts” at Denver and Chicago Midway, two of Southwest’s largest airports, resulted in “waves and waves” of close-in flight cancellations, with multiple-day airport shutdowns.
Since then, Southwest has announced plans to spend more than $1.3 billion on investments, upgrades, and maintenance of information technology systems to prevent that type of meltdown from occurring again.
That history was not lost on passengers who were quick to complain about the delays on Twitter today. In response, Southwest representatives replied, noting “Technical errors are unexpected and inconvenient for all, and you have our sincere apologies.”
Some of the replies went on to note that “Updates will be communicated when the site is fully functional. Please continue to hang in there with us!”
What To Do If Your Flight Was Delayed
Southwest has pledged to be “fluid” as the airline deals with the fallout from today’s delays.
“In order to provide maximum flexibility, Customers holding reservations to/from any Southwest destination today, April 18, may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge,” Southwest wrote in its Travel Advisory.
Meanwhile, customers who purchased their itinerary via Southwest.com or on the airline’s mobile app are eligible to reschedule their travel plans either online or from their mobile device, Southwest continues.
Finally, customers who did not purchase a ticket via Southwest.com can call the airline to speak with a customer representative.
You can learn more and even check the status of your Southwest flight at the airline’s Travel Advisory.