DALLAS — Southwest Airlines will reduce its flight schedule for the remainder of the year following a summer defined by delays, cancellations and complaints from its pilots and flight attendants about stresses from understaffing.
The Dallas-based airline will shed 27 daily flights from Sept. 7 through Oct. 6, and slash 162 flights from Oct. 7 to Nov. 5. It also said it expects other schedule adjustments for non-holiday periods in November and December.
The changes will reduce Southwest’s average daily flights to 3,304 in September-October and to 3,420 in October-November.
Schedule adjustments announced Thursday are aimed at adapting the company’s staffing model to post-summer flying patterns and the rise in COVID-19 cases impacting its business, Southwest said.
“To any Southwest customer whose journey with us fell short of their expectation this summer, we offer our sincerest apologies,” chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said. “We’re confident these adjustments will create a more reliable travel experience.”
Southwest said it will contact fliers affected by the cuts with updated travel details.
The cuts come just days after the carrier issued an apology to frustrated employees exhausted by mandatory overtime and increased run-ins with unruly passengers. Last week, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association authorized its members to hold picketing demonstrations over the summer’s working conditions.
“As our business recovery continues, we’re 100% dedicated to improving the quality of your work and setting you up for success,” Kelly said in a statement directed at employees.
Southwest said it’s also aggressively hiring for the planned route network it expects once the travel market returns to normal. Pilot recruitment and retention is a top priority for the airline industry, which is struggling to meet travel demand that has largely returned to normal.
Over 1.5 million travelers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on Wednesday — about 70% of the total who flew on the comparable pre-pandemic day in 2019.
Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines said in July it hopes to hire up to 1,350 pilots by the end of 2022. American regional carrier Piedmont Airlines announced an agreement earlier this week to attract pilots that includes a $30,000 bonus for all current and future captains.