The Southwest Airlines IT Meltdown
Were you traveling during the winter storm for the holidays last week? We certainly hope not. And if you did, we hope it wasn’t with Southwest Airlines. What many news outlets called “the perfect storm”, severe weather combined with the COVID-19, flu, and RSV trifecta (staff shortages) negatively impacted nearly all airlines and their customers. But Southwest was the worst by far. Starting December 19th into New Year’s, the airline cancelled at least 16,000 flights. This left not only hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded, but their own crews as well.
How did Southwest experience this operational crisis while other airlines bounced back or suffered far less cancellations?
The culprit: outdated IT infrastructure and crew-scheduling technology by the name of SkySolver. Their environment and proprietary software, although customized and updated by the airline, is from the 1990s and nearing end of life. Rather than being an end-to-end solution, SkySolver functions instead as a back-end algorithm intended to gather input from other systems. It then provides recommendations to alleviate crew-related disruptions. In addition, Southwest’s “point-to-point” model makes complex scheduling a challenge, demanding a higher computational load from its systems. Although the airline recently upgraded its reservation, maintenance, and ground operations systems, crew-scheduling was put on the backburner. The combination of blizzards, public health concerns, and dated technology made the last two weeks disastrous for Southwest.
According to analysts, the air service industry is behind the times and needs to revamp their IT environments
Airlines would greatly benefit from cloud and data integration
Airlines must walk away from age-old proprietary software and make the move to scalable cloud technologies that will enable them to connect and handle real-time data to better match crews with aircraft. Doing so could help ease complex transportation network issues like the one Southwest Airlines just experienced. The Southwest fiasco is an excessive example of how things could fall apart when older systems and software are in place. Outdated technology could potentially bring down a business’ operations, as well as leave it vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Currently, the airline is facing financial and reputational consequences. Customers are still waiting on lost luggage and accommodation reimbursements, and some are still waiting to rebook flights through mid-January. The air carrier’s stock plummeted since last week and the Department of Transportation may even fine the airline should they not make good on their promises to customers.
“Do I want to be known as a company behind the times?”
Businesses generally strive to do what’s best for their customers. They want to deliver, establish longstanding relationships, and build a good reputation. These days, it is nearly impossible to operate a business without some technology in place, but some organizations have yet to upgrade their systems and equipment. After the Southwest debacle, companies must ask themselves, “Do I want to be known as a company behind the times?” Failing to refresh IT infrastructure and devices could negatively impact operations. From compliance and security, general productivity, up-/downtime, to client relationships and company reputation, a business may want to consider taking the steps to overhaul their tech environment to prevent a situation like the one that unfolded with Southwest last week.
Let’s help you prevent a Southwest meltdown. As a private Cloud and Managed Services Provider, we have a variety of solutions available to you and your business. With our Managed Services offering, we can help your company become more secure. This would provide you with full IT support, including: Cloud and Virtual Desktop Services, Network Administration and Management, Data Center Solutions, Firewall and Security Solutions, Disaster Prevention Solutions, and much more. Let us evaluate your current IT environment and assist you with upgrading your devices, systems, and software. Your company can then focus on goals and projects rather than worry about how they will accomplish things with old and slow systems. Prepare now and for the future, move to the Cloud today!