When things go wrong, there’s almost never just one explanation. Southwest Airlines has canceled more than 13,000 flights, leaving holiday travelers stranded. If I had to pick only one factor — one hole in the cheese — it would be staffing. It’s probably the one problem that made all the others worse. In February 2020, Southwest employed 62,436 people; 18 months later, that number had fallen to 54,512.
It takes time to integrate a workforce shift of this size at an airline like Southwest. The company’s point-to-point operational model and short turnaround times created unique challenges.