“Part of what we’re suffering is a lack of tools,” Jordan said. “We’ve talked an awful lot about modernizing the operation, and the need to do that.”
Bob Jordan’s quote signifies the failure of leadership of epic proportions. Great on platitudes. Inability to prioritize and execute. Given his computer science, undergrad, and past role as EVP of Strategy & Technology, it’s inconceivable that this happened. In addition, Southwest Airlines received $7 billion in federal pandemic aid, where none went to technology investments. Bob wasted taxpayer dollars and came up empty for Southwest Airlines’ frontline employees and their customers.
What’s his incentive to invest in AI? None. Doing so would cost money. Probably north of seven figures – a significant capital investment that would affect his bottom line and shareholder payouts.
The Horrific Holiday Fiasco Created By Southwest Airlines Leadership
It was gut-wrenching to be part of the Holiday melee that Southwest Airlines’ leadership instigated. It was sad to see US airports regulated to a 3rd-world status like Somalia or Beirut. Inability to get on flights that one had reservations. I was witness to encampments littered all over Southwest Airlines gates. I heard stories of missing luggage with presents for kids and vital medicine to sustain many passengers’ lives. The Southwest Airlines app crashed with customer service hold times for four hours. Passengers were boarding planes and then deplaning because pilots and flight crews timed out. Frontline employees were powerless to do anything. It reminded me of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but instead, it was the chaotic escape from the airport for passengers to see their loved ones for the Holidays that failed.
After five flight cancellations, I eventually made it to my destination four days late. I sent an email and left a message on Bob’s direct line; I received a call from a customer relations rep 48 hours later. We had a 20-minute discussion where he readily admitted they have been using legacy systems built in the nineties. Their tech strategy is akin to someone using a flip phone instead of a smartphone in today’s day and age.
AI To The Rescue
Airlines have a library of information that they can leverage to improve operations. Data includes geographic, demographic, behavioral, and sometimes psychographic information about their passengers. Using the predictive power of AI can help:
- Forecast demand based on weather and destination patterns
- Automate scheduling based on crew and airplane availability
- Predict what flights customers will purchase based on macro and micro trends
Judging from their nineties approach to technology, it’s a good bet that they are using BI (business intelligence) for their analytics. While the predictive power of AI can do many wonderful things for businesses to drive profitability, it needs buy-in from executive leadership. Southwest Airlines doesn’t have it with Bob at the helm.
The Future of Southwest Airlines
It’s the New Year, and many are making resolutions. The majority will fail. Southwest Airlines will toot its horn, saying they’re implementing changes, and nothing will happen similar to your New Year’s resolution to lose weight.
There are always going to be storms in business and life. Remember Covid? For the most part, we all got it regardless of vaccination status. Those living a healthy lifestyle weathered it better than those who didn’t.
Time will tell if Southwest Airlines makes any improvements to its tech stack. They have yet to since their last flight cancellation meltdown in October 2021. Chances, they won’t do anything this time, either.