Southwest to tell U.S. lawmakers 'we messed up' during holiday meltdown


By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Southwest Airlines LUV.N Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson will apologize on Thursday before a U.S. Senate committee over the holiday meltdown that led to the cancellation of more than 16,000 flights and pledge to make changes to ensure that there will be no repeats.

Watterson's written testimony offers a new apology: "It caused a tremendous amount of anguish, inconvenience, and missed opportunities for our customers and employees."

SWAPA President Casey Murray will tell the Senate Commerce Committee that pilots "have been sounding the alarm about (Southwest's) inadequate crew scheduling technology and outdated operational processes for years. Unfortunately, those warnings were summarily ignored," according to written testimony seen by Reuters.

In his testimony, Murray blames the meltdown on "poor planning, systemic under-investment in crew scheduling technology and processes, and a failure to collaborate with frontline employees."

Southwest is facing an investigation by the U.S. Transportation Department over its flight scheduling and handling of more than 16,700 cancellations that disrupted travel plans for about 2 million customers and is estimated to have cost it more than $1 billion.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter)

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