Southwest Airlines’ CEO issued a formal apology to customers after delays left them stranded for hours over the weekend: ‘This is not the experience you deserve’

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly
CEO Gary Kelly Southwest Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly issued a formal apology for the company’s weekend meltdown.
  • He addressed customers and employees directly, apologizing for the negative impact the breakdown had.
  • Company COO Mike Van de Ven explained why the chaos happened and asked customers to give Southwest another chance.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly issued a formal apology to customers on Thursday after its weekend meltdown that impacted thousands of passengers.

Via Twitter, Kelly apologized for Southwest’s disastrous meltdown over Columbus Day weekend that separated families and ruined vacations. He addressed the company’s employees, emphasizing his appreciation for their hard work during the breakdown, as well as the customers, who he said didn’t deserve what happened.

Southwest chief commercial officer Mike Van de Ven also provided a statement to customers extending a sincere apology and emphasizing the importance of taking care of customers when things go wrong.

“Let me begin with our heartfelt apology to everyone whose travel was disrupted by these events: we are truly sorry,” he said. “I fully realize that any attempt at an explanation falls short of our ultimate goal of delivering you to your destination on time with our typical Southwest hospitality.”

He also implored customers to consider giving Southwest another chance.

“We are doing our best to proactively reach out to customers whose travel plans were impacted to offer our apologies and invite them to give us another chance to earn their business,” Van de Ven said.

In the letter, Van de Ven also included an explanation of why the meltdown happened, which he said started with air traffic control issues and weather in Florida on Friday that created a ripple effect impacting its entire point-top-point network. Van de Van said that the disruptions in Florida, which is where nearly 50% of its flights start and end each day and a quarter of its crew assignments are located, displaced its crews and aircraft.

Orlando is one of Southwest’s largest crew bases, and its seven-hour closure on Friday prevented aircraft, pilots, and flight attendants from moving through the system. Van de Van explained that because of this, flight crews could not get to their pre-planned positions. The airline got so out of order on Friday that the out-of-place resources cascaded through Tuesday, causing over 3,000 cancellations, according to Van de Ven.

Chicago-area bride Kimberli Romano was one of the many people impacted by Southwest’s meltdown. The airline canceled her parents’ flight to her wedding in Las Vegas and the family was unable to find another flight in time for the ceremony.

“It’s the most important day of my life thus far and I didn’t have a single family member present at my wedding,” Romano told CBS Chicago.