Southwest to upgrade crew-scheduling software, hire more staff during winter

(Reuters) -Southwest Airlines Co said on Tuesday it would upgrade its crew scheduling software and hire more staff in the winter, as the airline attempts to address problems that had led to large-scale cancellations during the holiday season.

The Dallas-based carrier has come under fire ever since bad weather during the Christmas holidays left staff stranded across the country, which overwhelmed its crew scheduling software, disrupting travel plans for two million customers.

The three-part plan was developed by the airline with input from aviation consultancy Oliver Wyman, which was hired to investigate the disruption.

The plan looks at bolstering operations during the winter season, when the chances of weather-related disruptions to travel-related services are high.

Southwest will also beef up its infrastructure to better handle call volumes from customers in the event of mass cancellations, Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan said at a JP Morgan Chase Industrials Conference.

“Work is well underway in implementing action items to prepare for the next winter – with some items already completed,” Jordan said.

Separately, the carrier backed its forecast for a loss in the current quarter.

Shares of the airline rose 1.7% in premarket trading.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)