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FAA halts Southwest flights as airline worked to fix technical issues

UPDATED: Tue., June 15, 2021

Southwest Airlines planes taxi at the Phoenix airport on July 17, 2019.  (Associated Press)
Southwest Airlines planes taxi at the Phoenix airport on July 17, 2019. (Associated Press)

After a recent data problem disrupted Southwest Airlines flights across the country, further outages prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to order the airline to halt new departures. However, the problem appeared to have been solved by late Tuesday.

According to news accounts, the FAA temporarily ordered Southwest to stop departures from airports across the country. The agency said it was ordering the halt “while the company resolved a reservation computer issue.”

By midafternoon, the nation’s fourth-largest airline had canceled about 500 flights and delayed nearly 1,300 others, according to tracking service FlightAware. The combination of cancellations and delays affected about half of Southwest’s planned flights for the day, the Associate Press reported.

Todd Woodard, spokesman for Spokane International Airport, had no immediate comment.

According to the Spokane International Airport website, three of five Southwest arrival flights made it to Spokane on Tuesday. A fourth was in the air Tuesday afternoon and a fifth was delayed.

However, only one Southwest flight appeared to have taken off Tuesday, with three delayed, and the last departure was listed as on schedule late Tuesday afternoon.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said in an email response to questions about the Spokane impact that flight operations had resumed to normal after “a brief pause in flight activity” in late morning on Tuesday.

“We experienced intermittent performance issues with some of our data systems,” Hawkins wrote. “Our teams continue their work to minimize disruptions to our customers’ travel plans.

“We appreciate their patience as we work to get them and their bags to their destinations,” he continued. “Southwest.com is the best place to check the status of specific flights. We’re apologizing today for inconvenience after some delayed travel.”

A nationwide weather data outage had disrupted Southwest flights Monday night, causing long delays for some passengers. The company blamed the problem on issues with Southwest’s third-party weather data provider.

It was unclear if the two incidents were related to the same underlying problem.

A company spokesman for Southwest told NPR the delay Monday night was from a system that “experienced intermittent performance issues” that prevented weather information from being sent to flight crews. That information is required to safely operate the plane, Dan Landson with Southwest Airlines said in an email.

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