Southwest has hit some major scheduling turbulence, metaphorically speaking. The airline is reportedly being investigated by the FAA and recently issued an internal memo alerting mechanics to an “operational emergency” stemming from an unusually high number of out-of-service planes. According to Vox, the memo was first reported by the Chicago Business Journal (subscription required) and “warned that any mechanics who were ‘alleging illness’ to skip work needed to provide a doctor’s note or risk losing their job.”
The FAA investigation is over baggage weight calculations by the airline that could cause engine issues, and has reportedly been going on since 2018. But the recent operational emergency status comes as Southwest is negotiating with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) over labor terms. In a statement, Southwest said “just days after our last negotiations session with AMFA, we experienced an unprecedented number of out-of-service aircraft in four specific maintenance locations despite no change in our maintenance programs, no changes in leadership, and no changes in our policies and procedures.”
The disruption resulted in a spike in more than 1,000 flights delayed and around 100 cancelled on February 15 alone. The impact appears to have subsided somewhat, though the labor situation remains unresolved.
Tracking Flight Delays in One Map
Delays and cancellations usually result from weather and other circumstances beyond an airline’s control, but Southwest’s situation is a good reminder that this isn’t always the case. And for travelers, any sudden delays and cancellations can ruin a vacation. In addition to checking with your airline for updates, the flight delay website FlightAware offers two great tools to help travelers visualize the overall state of the skies.
First, travelers can browse live flight delay statistics, showing how many flights are delayed or canceled for the current day. You can click one specific airline to see how it’s doing—here’s Southwest, for example—but the broader view provides some helpful context.
For map-appreciating people like myself, the site’s aptly-named Misery Map displays the data by destination, and overlays a current radar image to show where weather may impact arrivals and departures. Hovering over a destinations displays routes that are be experiencing delays and highlights routes that are on time.
Tools like this don’t eliminate delays from your future travels, but they do help you plan and, hopefully, bring some comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one slogging through a disrupted schedule. It’s a good idea to bookmark the Misery Map for the next time you’re wondering what the chances are you’ll see a flight delay.
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