Southwest lost $75 million after the four-day meltdown that left passengers stranded

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800. Markus Mainka/Shutterstock
  • Southwest Airlines said it lost $US75 ($AU100) million during its Columbus Day weekend meltdown.
  • The airline posted a $US135 ($AU180) million third-quarter loss and said revenue is still down 17% compared to 2019.
  • Southwest expects a $US100 ($AU133) million loss in the fourth quarter despite an increase in bookings for the holiday season.

Southwest Airlines lost $US75 ($AU100) million in a four-day operational meltdown that forced over 2,000 flight cancellations and left thousands of passengers stranded.

Southwest says it lost $US75 ($AU100) million after its chaotic service breakdown over Columbus Day weekend, reported CNN. However, the loss is not the only bad news coming from the carrier. The company warned this quarter’s revenue will take a $US100 ($AU133) million plunge due to the lingering effects of the summer COVID surge, with $US40 ($AU53) million of that expected to come from October alone, according to the carrier. The loss is expected despite the increase in holiday bookings.

The airline’s fourth-quarter loss is expected to be an improvement from quarter three, which saw a $US100 ($AU133) million loss in August and $US200 ($AU266) in September due to the impact of surging COVID cases. Overall, Southwest had a 161% increase in revenue in the third quarter, which totaled $US4.7 ($AU6) billion, compared to 2020, but still posted a $US135 ($AU180) million loss, said the carrier. Meanwhile, revenue is still down 17% compared to 2019.

“We are encouraged with renewed momentum in leisure and business traffic, revenues, and bookings-especially over the holidays,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said. “Except for higher fuel prices, fourth-quarter 2021’s overall results are trending better than third quarter 2021.”

The carrier blamed a combination of bad weather and air traffic control issues for the thousands of flight disruptions that plagued its operation over the four-day meltdown. Southwest chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven explained the first day of disruptions led to displaced crews and aircraft in Florida and the company could not catch up, causing passengers as far as California and Illinois to be impacted.

Moreover, Southwest admitted that staffing shortages contributed to the meltdown, according to CNN. Van de Ven warned that unless the company finds a solid “staffing cushion,” it may need to further reduce its winter schedule, which has already been reduced through November 5 due to staffing issues.