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Southwest Airlines’ October flight cancellations cost carrier $75 million

Passengers check in for a Southwest Airlines flight at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida, U.S., October 11, 2021.

Joe Skipper | Reuters

Southwest Airlines on Thursday said mass flight cancellations and delays that disrupted travel for tens of thousands of customers earlier this month cost it $75 million.

Dallas-based Southwest earlier this month canceled more than 2,000 flights between Oct. 8 and Oct. 13, blaming the issues on bad weather in Florida, air traffic control compounded by staffing shortages.

The hit came from flight cancellations, customer refunds and “gestures of goodwill.”

The airline reported a third-quarter profit of $446 million on Thursday thanks to a boost from federal aid and voluntary leaves of absence by employees, but it said staff shortages led to operational problems that hurt its bottom line.

“Our active (versus inactive) and available staffing fell below plan and, along with other factors, caused us to miss our operational ontime performance targets, and that created additional cost headwinds,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said. That along with a surge in Covid-19 cases led to a revenue hit of $300 million, he said.

Here’s how Southwest performed in the third quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted results per share: a loss of 23 cents versus an expected loss of 27 cents.
  • Total revenue: $4.68 billion versus expected $4.58 billion.

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