Southwest Airlines chief to testify about holiday breakdown

Southwest Airlines chief will testify next week before US lawmakers about the system-wide failure that left thousands of travelers stranded last holiday season.

Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson is scheduled to testify February 9 in front of the US Senate Commerce Committee about a system-wide failure that shut down airline operations for four days during the 2022 holiday season.

The hearing, titled "Strengthening Airline Operations and Consumer Protections," will address the holiday meltdown that led to the cancellation of more than 16-thousand Southwest flights nationwide.

Also set to appear before the committee Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Captain Casey Murray and Sharon Pinkerton, a senior official with Airlines for America, an industry group.

Besides the Southwest holiday debacle, the fact finding hearing will examine the causes and impacts of all recent air travel disruptions in the nation.

The budget airline’s system-wide breakdown caused more than 60% of Southwest passenger flights to be canceled between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

The network failure, said to be caused by a faulty router, took the airline’s reservation system offline, stranding thousands of customers.

In January, two class action lawsuits were filed against the airline relating to the cancellation chaos, one by Southwest passengers and the other by Southwest shareholders.

Southwest is being sued by passengers for withholding reimbursement for the canceled flights.

The shareholder suit accuses Southwest and its top three CEO’s of purposefully disregarding the dismal state of the airline’s internal controls in quarterly reports, violating federal securities laws.