Navigating the Storm: A Captain's Blog
Navigating the Storm: A Captain's Blog
Our new Blog Team covers many areas of Southwest Airlines, including the areas hit hard by recent winter storms. We thought it would be interesting to share with you a Captain's Blog from the people who experienced it first-hand.
Just got to the Houston Pilot Lounge. I flew Flight 3133 this morning and due to the Texas weather they rerouted us over Corpus Christi - Palacios and then Houston. It added about an hour to bring us from the southwest insead of the northeast, as we usually do. Fortunately, once the backed up traffic from the morning weather eased up, we got a shortcut into Houston and arrived only thirty minutes late. Many flights were canceled for our connecting passengers and it's a typical ugly winter weather day in the airline biz. Lots of changes and very fluid operation in these kinds of conditions. My own flight to Love Field was canceled and I'll be hanging out until 1300 for the next flight home.
Joe the Pilot
Chicago-Midway International Airport jet way bombarded by snow
Taken by Customer Service Agent Supervisor James Goodman
Chicago-Midway International Airport blizzard continues, all flights canceled
Taken by Customer Service Agent Supervisor James Goodman
Transmission from Community Relations & Giving Specialist Casey Welch, Feb 2. at 1253
Our hearts are going out to our Employees and Customers who are navigating through much more complicated situations. From a Charitable Giving and Community Relations standpoint, we stay in close contact with our community partners such as the Red Cross that respond to natural disasters and emergencies like this. They keep us updated regularly on the needs in the community and always alert us if there is a way we can step in and help. So far, we haven't activated any of our community disaster response plans.
Stay warm and be safe, everyone!
Transmission from Station Training & Compliance Specialist Paul Thompson, Feb. 2 at 1301
Transmission from Jonathon Nield & John Valetta, Scheduling & Call Allocation Team, Feb. 2 at 1417
2011 has been a challenging year so far in terms of weather. You have braved those storms to travel to your destinations and we have faced the challenge head-on. The sheer volume of calls we see when weather gets bad can make most Call Center operations crumble, and in some cases our phone providers tremble with fear.
We like to think of ourselves as Call Center Emergency Responders, saving as many calls as we could and trying anything we could think of to get more calls answered. We know getting a busy signal or an announcement saying the hold time is high is very frustrating, as we all have been on that side of the phone as well, we worked hard to get as many of those calls answered that we possibly could. Here at the Scheduling and Call Allocation Team, we saw the data not as numbers but as people trying to get home, to work, to family, or a job interview. We know at times it may not seem like it, but rest assured that we are working very hard here in our Dallas office to get you all your destinations as quickly and as safely as possible by making sure that someone is there to answer your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!
Transmission from Capt. Joe Gautille, Feb. 2 at 1459
Transmission from Strategic Planning & Projects Manager Mike Sims, Feb. 2 at 1500
We’re in the midst of one of my favorite times of year in Texas—a winter storm. The grocery stores are raided, media outlets doing their best Chicken Little, schools and factories barred their doors, and we Texans are sliding our cars into the ditches. Ah, paradise!
What a mess! I am such the novice when it comes preparing for Mother Nature’s winter wrath, but I did the best I could.
First, I turned to our local news for live updates—every hour, on the hour, and for the whole hour. Newscasts are interrupting their newscasts! This effort successfully raised my personal weather panic terror alert to something like “platinum.” Faster than one can say “storm of the century” in a sound bite, I joined the Texas-sized stampede to get emergency provisions.
I grabbed my coat and hat and bolted out the door in search of the nearest grocery store to secure the necessities. After all, I could be holed up for weeks!
- Fourteen boxes of Pop-Tarts and one deli ham: Check.
- Flashlight batteries (for flashlight I don’t own): Check.
- Copy of Us Weekly Magazine (to monitor how celebrities cope with bad weather): Check.
Yet, I froze (no pun intended) in the pet food aisle. Panic. I don’t have any pets! What am I going to do? What if a cat shows up at my bunker to rest a spell?
- Four cans of cat food (and one cat toy for the long days): Check.
I bought a bunch of other stuff that ultimately proved useless, except for the two cans of creamed corn I got on sale “two for one.” Even in tough times, I won’t turn my head to a bargain!
I got home, put up my rations, and headed to bed, tossing and turning all night.
When I woke up, I looked out the window and saw the ice. Jokes aside, I know our Customers are braving the weather and many of you are in circumstances far tougher than mine. I was determined to make it into Southwest Headquarters. So far, I have made it to the office every day since this storm began by driving slowly (with a few slips and slides along the way) on Dallas’ iced covered streets.
We are receiving operational updates from our Crew Schedulers, Flight Dispatchers, and our other operational folks who have been working long hours to ensure that we are getting our operation back on track and, most importantly, taking care of our Customers.
Each day is getting a little better and I am confident we will be back to our normal schedule as soon as possible.
I am thankful for my fellow Employees who are working extremely hard out in our cities across the nation and our Headquarters.
By the way, no cat ever showed up at my house. I have a few cans of cat food to spare if you like!
Take care, be safe, and stay warm.Mike
Transmission from Online Content Manager Brian Lusk, Feb. 2 at 1531
Transmission from Emerging Media Coordinator Brooks Thomas, Feb. 2 at 1534
Transmission from MDW Customer Service Agent Supervisor Timothy O'Keefe, Feb. 2 at 1535
As a junior Customer Service Supervisor, I have the highly coveted days of Wednesday and Thursday as my Saturday and Sunday. Luckily, the storm arrived about the same time my weekend began. Monday evening, we were notified that operations at Midway were going to be suspended at noon Tuesday just before the storm arrived. Behind the scenes there is a lot of planning taking place for our People. As easy as it would be to flip a switch and start flying airplanes, many People work to determine how to transition back to regular business.
Since there were no flights after Noon on Tuesday, I was given the option of taking the day off since I work an evening shift. My position offers fantastic flexibility in trading shifts, trading start times, or simply giving the day away to another supervisor who wants the hours. One of my coworkers wanted the day off so I picked up her morning start time so I could head back home and start my weekend early.
Tuesday morning, I was supervising on the concourse. Lots of Customers were trying to get out of town and get anywhere they could before the snow hit Chicago. One of our pilots was trying to get home to St. Louis since the rest of his trip was cancelled and he was stuck at the base. Unfortunately for him, the St. Louis station had already shut down so there were no flights to get him home. Like some folks who did not want to wait for the storm to pass, he ended up renting a car and making the dangerous trek. The storm really left a mess of Chicago, so I hope that he made it home safely. My morning rounded out with a few last minute cancellations for flights to New York since weather was diminishing out there earlier than anticipated. It was difficult breaking the news to folks who were hoping to get out of town before the storm.
Initially, we were going to resume flights at noon today (Wednesday). Since our morning Customer Service Team typically starts around 5 o'clock and there were no flights (and presumably limited Customers) for the first half of the day, we wanted to give our People the option of safely staying at home and coming in late or being a part of a skeleton crew at the airport. Just as our Admin Supervisor finished calling everybody, we received notification that the suspension of service was extended into the evening. Everyone from the morning shift had to be called back to be told they could take the whole day off!
I finished out my day helping make all of the second phone calls to communicate the plans. Timing worked out well as the snow was starting as my day was ending. I hopped in my car for a slow drive home where my wife, my dog, and I locked ourselves inside to enjoy the thundersnow.
This morning I took a walk with my dog to check things out. It was unusually quiet in the city since there were hardly any cars out at all. The roads in my neighborhood were still unplowed and the wind was blowing snow everywhere. In the middle of the block, someone abandoned their car after getting it stuck in a drift.
After a long week at work, I am lucky to be enjoying my ‘Saturday’ at home with a nice cup of coffee and good company with the family. I will be recharged and ready to help get our Customers and planes back in the sky when I return Friday. Until then, it is time to relax.
Hi! I wrote a cranky thing on [Facebook] earlier but then I finally, finally got through to a human and spoke to a wonderful Customer Service Rep on the phone named Elleni. She totally rocked and fixed everything and had an awesome attitude, despite the fact that she's probably been speaking to angry people all day. Sorry for being cranky. 🙂Transmission from Emerging Media Coordinator Brooks Thomas, Feb. 2 at 1550
Nice save, Elleni! And thanks for sharing, Jenna. I'm sure you're not alone in your frustration. If it makes you feel any better, I just slipped and did a Looney Tunes-esque fall on the ice, windmill hands and everything.
Transmission from Project Support Supervisor Kari Kennedy, Feb. 2 at 1600
All I've seen is the inside of my house and I'm about to turn into a character from The Shining. LOL! I'm hoping tomorrow I can get out of my driveway.
Transmission from Online Content Manager Brian Lusk, Feb. 2 at 1622
Chicago-Midway International Airport plows out on the tarmac, Feb. 2 at 1655
Taken by Customer Service Agent Supervisor James Goodman
Transmission from Communications Manager Marilee McInnis, Feb. 2 at 1711
El Paso International Airport - Vacant gate with snowy mountains in the background, Feb. 2 at 1722
Taken by Operations Agent Frank Gonzales
Chicago-Midway International Airport Employees during a break, Feb. 2 at 1831
Taken by Customer Service Agent Supervisor James Goodman
Although Chicago-Midway's flights are canceled for the duration of Wednesday, all hands are on deck to get up and running as soon as possible.
Transmission from Assistant Marketing Manager Erin Terry, Feb. 2 at 1917
I decided yesterday that comfort food was in order and I wanted to share this simple (yet satisfying) recipe with you. Prepare 4 cups of rice made with a quarter pound of butter (mmmm). In a separate saucepan sautée about 2 lbs of chicken (breast or thighs) cut into bite size pieces, in about a half stick of butter and 3 tbsp of flour season with salt and pepper to taste. After the chicken is delicious and golden brown add a cup of milk and let that simmer (it will thicken slightly). Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and a can of cream of chicken soup and let that come to a nice simmer. I added a can of green beans, but you can add spinach or any other veggie you want to convince yourself it is actually healthy. When it is complete and the rice is all fluffed, fold the rice into the chicken and gravy mix, and enjoy! I also added another half stick of butter because it looked too healthy.
In the midst of the icy madness, I did manage to access e-mail to see a steady stream of updates from the Blog Team. This made me happy when it was happening; even happier when I found time to reflect. So many different perspectives, so many people working toward the same goal from completely different ends of the spectrum. My thanks goes out to the Team for taking time out of their busy days to write something. An idea and the process of arranging it is the easy part, especially when the pieces are given to you just so.
But we're still in the thick of it. Tomorrow is a new, hopefully less challenging day. I hope you're also looking forward to seeing where Captain Joe or Rob is, or whether any of those plans Casey discussed were put into action. Heck, maybe Mike will run out of rations and David will open the recipe book up again? I'm sure that cat food is still up for grabs.
End Transmission for Feb. 2, 2011
Begin Transmission for Feb. 3, 2011
Transmission from Customer Representative Krista Crow, Feb. 3 at 0100
I live in Oklahoma City and very early tuesday morning it started to sleet, and then the snow came. At first, it was really pretty. School was canceled for the kids and there were snow drifts everywhere. It was so cold, there was no way we could go outside, but being together inside was nice... at first. It is now Wednesday night and if I don't get out soon, I think I will lose my mind! I love my three children, but there is a thing as too much togetherness in a small house.
Transmission from Flight Attendant Rob Garren, Feb. 3 at 0825
Yesterday, they canceled my regular day due to the storms and they just deadheaded us to Ft. Lauderdale. All day at the beach - UNBELIEVABLE! Got a bit sunburned... but that's the worst of it. Later, on the weather, they showed how the only good weather to be had in the United States was in Florida. Lucky me!
My day today has been changed around a bit, but it looks like I'll be getting home. My sister was working at the same time and it looks like she got the worst end of the deal with lots of delays, re-routes, and de-icing... only to end up in Raleigh twice. Needless to say, she did not want to hear about how my trip was going. I'm sure that was the last time I'll do so well during bad weather. Nine times out of ten you get a much worse deal than your original trip.
Transmission from Communications Manager Marilee McInnis, Feb. 3 at 0830
If you would like to rebook online, please click HERE to reschedule your flight. For customers who did not purchase their ticket via southwest.com, please call us at 1-800-435-9792.
Transmission from Customer Relations Writing Representative Whitney Bartels, Feb. 3 at 1100
If you’ve been traveling at all over the past few days, this picture will likely bring a sinking feeling to your stomach. With more than 14,000 cancelled flights, record breaking snowfall, and all-time temperature lows, the storm literally knocked the country off its feet, presenting a number of unseen challenges. On Tuesday, February 1, Love Field Airport closed for only the second time in history - the first being September 11, 2001. Coupled with Love Field, thirty other airports across the System were experiencing closings, delays, and cancelations as a result of the weather.
So, as you can imagine, things have been a little crazy in the Customer Relations Department. We’ve been working alongside our incredible frontline and Customer Service Employees in attempt to conquer the task of accommodating each and every Customer affected by the storm. We’ve been here every day through ice, sleet, freezing temperatures, and rolling power outages across Texas. It’s been all hands on deck in an effort to handle the unprecedented call volumes. Just yesterday. four other CR/RR reps piled into my Jeep to brave the weather and head to Headquarters (thank you Kansas winters for teaching me how to drive in winter weather). If that’s not LUV for our Customers, I’m not sure what is!
Transmission from Central Baggage Support Specialist Shannon Draper, Feb. 3 at 1105
I had a wonderful day. After slipping and sliding out of the driveway, I thought, "I think I will take a vacation day." I went back into the house and, to my surprise, I was able to video tape my dog, Paris standing on her hind legs looking out the blinds at the squirrel on the back porch. She was standing on her hind legs away from the blinds because she will get in trouble if she puts her feet there. She stood there and barked and looked at that squirrel for over 5 minutes until my husband finally let her out the back door. Then the chase was on!
They played chicken with each other up and down the fence until he finally out-foxed her and made it to the tree. She sat there in the back, looking at the fence and the tree like , "how did he get by me?" She was so funny to watch, but the most amazing thing was the balancing on her hind legs. She wouldn't let that squirrel out of her sight and he wasn't about to give up tormenting her. Neither one of them minded the cold. It was nature at its best and worst on Tuesday morning.
Transmission from Flight Attendant Joey Reynolds, Feb. 3 at 1151
About 2 hours after landing in Baltimore, I reached my hotel with my crew to find out that they were at capacity and only had one room. This is where the LUV Airline comes in!!! There was a large number of crew members in the lobby. Two other Flight Attendants offered to share a room and give one to us. I ran into an old friend and shared a room with him. And now we only needed one room which was the last one they had! After all of that confusion and working together to make things happen we were able to find a restaurant down the street that was open. We grabbed ourselves some nice warm food, a frosty beverage and sang "I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane" at karaoke! It ended up being a great time and certainly one for the history books!
Boise Airport De-Icing
Taken by Capt. Roy Cook
Transmission from Emerging Media Coordinator Brooks Thomas, Feb. 3 at 2246
All quiet on the Southwestern front. As operations resumed, so did the workloads of our Blog faithful. Snow has started falling in Central Texas, and we're supposed to get some here in Dallas, too. Funny, but I feel as though it takes only three days of ice in Dallas to feel impervious to the snow's wrath. Everyone I've spoken with is shrugging it off. Guess they don't like icing on their cake? Oh, sweet irony.
End Transmission for Feb. 3, 2011
Begin Transmission for Feb. 4, 2011
Three days into ‘super storm 2011,’ I had my first belly-laugh of the whole event. Since Tuesday, the sleet on my deck has gradually morphed into black ice, so it’s insanely slick. However, when I got home from the office (the call of nature being what it is) I had to let my three dogs out back to do their business.
First out of the chute was Marley, the 160-lb yellow lab that thinks he’s a lap dog. He had galloped at full speed all of 3 feet from the back door when all four paws went four different directions, and he hit the ice hard and slid another 6 feet, stopping perilously close to the edge of the pool. Next came Abby, the 2 lb Tyrannosaurus-Chihuahua mix who, following in Marley’s footsteps, went three feet, hit the ground equally hard, and slid directly into Marley’s derriere, which ricocheted the big guy right into the water head-first.
Last came Miss Ginger, my little brown 20-lb earth-mother that thinks she’s a cat. She took one step out, sniffed of the ice, and took disdainful notice of Marley flailing in the pool. She turned around, blithely looked up at me with her famous “are you KIDDING me?” glance and trotted back inside to resume her nap on the electric blanket. Marley lumbered out of the pool, shook vigorously several times, SOAKING Abby, and gave her a “WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT ALL ABOUT??” look. I laughed until I cried!
I hope everyone is coping well with the winter weather!
I know instantly it's going to be a busy day in scheduling when I walk onto the scheduling floor and the whole area is buzzing. Everyone is talking at once, phones are ringing constantly, and there are pizza boxes lying open on the tables.
On a regular day I might have to notify about twenty flight attendants of changes to their flying throughout my eight hour shift. Instead, on Monday, I had seventy flight attendants to call in my notification window! And the list continued to grow to about 120 by 4 AM. And that was just for MDW flight attendants! The schedulers that were handling notifies for our other seven bases certainly felt my pain!
Other schedulers took phone calls. At one point we had as many as eighty calls in cue, and the call volume stayed pretty steady throughout the day and well into the night.
Those who weren't watching flight changes or taking phone calls tackled the 695 canceled flights from nearly half the United States. On Tuesday, we had about 600 more canceled flights and on Wednesday we topped the day off with nearly 900 problems to take care of. Those problems show up on a list in a computer program called Solver. Those 900 problems were a mix of canceled flights, crew rest issues, and flights with no crew members.
Some flight attendants' trips were changed so much from canceled flights that when we called them yet again, they answered the phone laughing, "What are we doing now?"
The Midwest and East Coast weren't the only areas with wicked cold weather. Dallas actually dropped down to 15 degrees, and the roads were covered in ice. It's an eerie feeling sliding through a traffic light. I now know what it must be like to drive a Zamboni.
Is it wrong of me to say I can't wait for Spring?
Transmission from Scheduling & Call Allocation Team Member Jonathon Nield, Feb. 4 at 0900
Transmission from Lead Planner-Schedule Development Bill Owen, Feb. 4 at 1104
Okay, perhaps I’ve been cooped up too long, but just noticed that TVLand goes right from “The Nanny” at 10:30 AM CST to “Gunsmoke.” Man, that has GOT to create some sort of hormonal feng-shui imbalance somewhere!!!!!
Transmission from Emerging Media Coordinator Brooks Thomas, Feb. 4 at 1107
Let me know when F Troop comes on, Bill. Everyone, apologies for the formatting issues. Seems when you play computer roulette, things get a little dicey. By the way, slight bruise from Wednesday's fall is subsiding. Bruised ego still in tact.
Transmission from Communications Manager Brad Hawkins, Feb. 4 at 1130
- 180 Cancelations Systemwide (60 in DAL)
- DAL Conditions Rapidly Improving
- Confidently Optimistic About Running Post-noon Schedule at DAL
- Big Game Charters are launching and headed this way [to Love Field]
Transmission from Marketing Specialist Emily Richardson, Feb. 4 at 1135
I hadn't experienced any interruptions from the winter weather this week because my Team and direct Customers live and work in the Western region of the country. While I was freezing in Dallas, the majority of our corporate accounts were enjoying sunny weather. It's been business as usual this week, until now.
I'm currently sitting at Gate 10 in Love Field waiting for the snow to stop falling, the runways to be cleared, the planes to be de-iced, and revenue Customers to be re-accommodated so I can get to Phoenix tonight to host a suite at the Suns game. At this point, it's not looking like I'll make it on time or at all, but for now I'm waiting it out and hoping to get as much work done as possible from the airport. Thank goodness for WiFi!
Transmission from Communications Intern Lauren Kraft, Feb. 4 at 1200
It is certainly an interesting time to be an Intern at Southwest! I'm sitting in my cubical in Headquarters right now and it's a little lonely. Those of us that live close by have braved the snow, but so many others are working hard from home, making sure our Customers know we are doing the best we can in this crazy weather.
I've had an amazing time so far and learned so much, but this isn't exactly how I thought my first few weeks in Dallas would be. As I sat in frigid Illinois, packing up my belongings to make the journey to Southwest's hometown, I thought "It's hot in Texas, right? The snow boots are not coming with me! Halleluiah!"
Well, I was wrong. Very wrong. My family in Illinois has definitely got it worse with the 4 foot drifts, but here in Dallas we are just not equipped for this kind of weather.
So while my feet might be a little cold, hearing the great stories of fellow Employees going the extra mile during this craziness has warmed my heart. I'm so proud to call them my Family!
Keep up the great work everyone!
Transmission from Emerging Media Coordinator Brooks Thomas, Feb. 4 at 1209
Just thought I'd give credit where it is due. Lauren took the picture that is featured today for the Captain's Blog, as I am one of those people working from home. Thanks, Lauren!
End Transmission for Feb. 4, 2011
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