by Mark Albert
Courtesy: Southwest Airlines
Brace for possible technological turbulence.
Southwest Airlines, the biggest U.S. airline in 2016 by total system passengers, implements a “major upgrade” to its reservation system today, prompting the carrier’s chief commercial officer to warn passengers that “small problems” are possible throughout the day and the week ahead.
“It’s by far the most ambitious technical project we have ever undertaken,” Southwest’s Bob Jordan testified last week before a hearing of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“I think we are extremely well prepared,” he added, but cautioned his team does expect “some small problems” as the rollout takes place on Tuesday.
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Watch Southwest’s Bob Jordan explain the new system during his testimony to Congress on May 2, 2017:
The airline began implementing the computer program in phases nearly a year ago, Jordan said, including on all of the carrier’s international flights.
The final components go into effect Tuesday.
It is a “major upgrade to our reservation system,” Jordan explained. “We’ve tested this product more than any IT implementation we’ve ever done.”
The new system is being credited for allowing the airline to announce the elimination of its policy of deliberately overbooking some flights.
Southwest Airlines confirmed to The Voyage Report on April 27 it will end its overbooking practice, citing the new system.
At the congressional hearing, Jordan told the committee that the computer program, known within the industry as Amadeus, “gives us better data and better forecasting techniques so we can basically predict better who is going to show up for a flight.”
Southwest, along with other major U.S. carriers such as Delta and American, have been under pressure from lawmakers, passengers, and businesses to improve computer networks, after severe outages within the past 18 months have hobbled operations at all of the carriers.
In the summer of 2016, Southwest had to cancel more than 1,100 flights when its computer system went down, causing a “system outage,” CBS News and the AP reported.
Delta is overhauling how it responds to digital communications after a weather meltdown caused days of delays and cancelled flights, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In August, Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to Delta Air Lines asking probing questions about its recent computer failures.
The senators also sent a similar letter to United Airlines in January, foreshadowing the congressional scrutiny ahead.
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