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US Senate Panel Questions Southwest Airlines about Holiday Failures

Southwest Airlines executives and union officials are appearing before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Thursday to explain the cancellation of 16,700 flights last December in the middle of the holiday traveling season.

In a statement to the media ahead of his testimony, Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson took full responsibility for the failures that left more than 1 million passengers stranded in airports around the United States.

“We messed up. We own that,” he said, and pledged to take steps to ensure there will not be a repeat in the future.

Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), is also scheduled to testify at Thursday’s hearing. In a statement, he blamed the airline’s outdated scheduling technology and operational processes.

Murray said the airline ignored warnings about the system for years and said SWAPA predicted the holiday meltdown a month before it happened.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, Senator Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said she was eager to hear the pilot’s testimony on how the debacle could have been avoided if the airline had acted sooner. She said the committee will be considering how to strengthen protections for consumers.

Source: Voice of America

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