Tech Outage Causes Air Delays for Southwest Airlines

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    Southwest Airlines Co. has been struggling with technology problems that led to delayed flights and snarled its revamped frequent-flier program.

    The airline said Wednesday that it suffered a 90-minute telecommunications outage that delayed 300 flights on Tuesday by an average of 20 to 40 minutes.

    The outage left airport agents unable to swipe boarding passes over readers as passengers got on planes, said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz. Agents had to handle the boarding process manually until the outage ended. No flights were canceled, he said.

    Southwest customers also had problems using the overhauled Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program immediately after it was rolled out Tuesday. They were unable to get information about their accounts or make any changes to them. Some said their accounts went to zero points.

    Mainz said that glitch was fixed overnight and Rapid Rewards was working properly but more slowly than usual on Wednesday. Customer-service representatives were swamped with calls, he said.

    The telecommunications outage and the Rapid Rewards glitch were unrelated, he said.

    "It's just complete Murphy's Law that they happened the same day," he said.

    The problems did not interfere with booking travel on the airline's main website, and the Dallas-based company did not lose any revenue as a result, he said.

    Beginning Tuesday, Southwest changed Rapid Rewards from earning a credit for each flight to earning points based on money spent on travel. The program was shut down over the weekend while the new program was installed. The upgrade appeared to go smoothly, Mainz said.

    More than 1.3 million people "like" Southwest on Facebook, but on Wednesday, some of them were not happy. They unleashed a torrent of complaints about the Rapid Rewards breakdown, even ridiculing the airline's technological ability.

    "What are you using, an Atari 2600 to do the `upgrade'?" asked user Matt Morris, referring to a 1970s video game console.

    Ashly Case, whose Rapid Rewards account went to zero points, said she was on hold "forever" before giving up without getting an explanation from Southwest.

    "You owe all your customers something after this massive screw up!!!!" she wrote.

    AP Airlines Writer Josh Freed in Minneapolis contributed to this report.