On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Southwest Airlines will pay a $140 million fine for alleged flight disruptions during the 2022 holiday season. This is the largest civil penalty the agency has ever issued.
The disruptions were caused by a crew shortage, which led to 123 flights being cancelled and more than 1,400 flights being delayed. The Department of Transportation says the airline failed to properly plan for a surge in demand during the holiday period.
The penalty comes after an investigation by the agency’s Aviation Enforcement Office. The agency says Southwest should have been aware of the potential for an increase in demand and should have taken appropriate steps to ensure that it was adequately staffed during the holiday season.
Southwest has issued an apology for the disruptions caused by the crew shortage and accepted the fine. The airline says it had never experienced a situation like this before and has since taken steps to address the issue. These include hiring additional pilots and flight attendants, implementing new technology to help manage crew scheduling, and expanding automation for operational redundancies.
This fine could mark an important step forward for the airline industry, as it shows the Department of Transportation taking a strong stance on ensuring that disruptive events, such as flight disruptions during the holiday season, are properly addressed. Airlines should take note of this ruling and make sure they are taking appropriate steps to staff for similar situations in the future. They should also ensure they are implementing proper redundancy measures for these mission-critical operations.