May 24, 2024

Southwest Airlines planes were grounded for more than an hour Tuesday due to a technical issue with the carrier’s firewall systems – leading to more than 1,900 delays and several cancellations. 

The nationwide stop started about 9:45am and persisted for more than an hour, causing a flood of frustrated travelers to lash out at the embattled carrier on social media.

For roughly an hour and a half, captains assured customers their planes would soon take off and were grounded due to software malfunction – while an explanation from a company rep said the disruptions stemmed from ‘intermittent technology issues.’ 

The Federal Aviation Administration eventually lifted the pause at 11:10am, revealing the order was issued at the airline’s request while staffers worked to resolve ‘data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure.’

The statement, however, provided little insight as to what actually caused the cross-country grounding, the affects of which are still being seen. 

According to data provided by the flight tracker FlightAware, 1,982 Southwest flights are still experiencing delays, four months after a similar system outage saw more than 16,000 Southwest flights cancelled.

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Southwest Airlines planes were grounded for more than an hour Tuesday due to a technical issue with the carrier’s firewall systems – leading to more than 1,900 delays and cancellations

The nationwide stop started about 9:45am and persisted for more than an hour, with a flood of frustrated travelers chronicling their experiences on social media 

At 11:10am – after roughly an hour and a half – the FAA lifted the pause – writing in a vague statement that Southwest had ‘experienced a technical issue’ with one of its systems

A vague statement from the airline sent around 11:30am said that operations had now resumed as normal – after all were put on pause to fix an alleged issue with its firewall system

Following the FAA’s statement – which was posted to the agency’s social media at 11:10am – Southwest later confirmed the malfunction stemmed from its firewall system, saying staffers worked relentlessly to fix the ‘data connection issues’ during the FAA’s grounding.

Shortly thereafrer, the carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer, Ryan Green, pledged the company ‘would do everything we can, and work day and night to repair our relationship with you’.

The statement came mere weeks after Southwest had promised to invest more than $1 billion to upgrade its IT system, following the swathe of cancellations seen in December.

But on Tuesday, as stranded travelers took to social media to question how the Texas-based company could possibly be plagued by another outage so soon, a rep attempted to explain what led to the pause

‘Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall went down and connection to some operational data was unexpectedly lost,’ a spokesperson said.

‘Southwest teams worked quickly to minimize flight disruptions.’

Another more vague statement added that the airline had ‘resumed operations this morning following a pause in service.’

The chaos unfolded from roughly 9:45am to 11:10am, causing grounded travelers from states ranging from Colorado to Florida to publicly air complaints after receiving little explanation from airline staffers. 

In earlier tweets replying to frustrated travelers, Southwest said it ‘had to implement a ground stop as a result of intermittent issues that were experienced.’ 

‘As a result of the intermittent technology issues that we experienced, we should hopefully be resuming our operation as soon as possible,’ a rep responding to the barrage of complaints added:

‘We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we’re hoping to get everyone going ASAP.’

In another post shortly after – as customers with the recent December outages fresh in their minds continued to complain – the rep tried to quell traveler’s frustrations while again apologizing.

‘Technical errors are unexpected and inconvenient for all, and you have our sincere apologies,’ the spokesperson wrote.

‘We appreciate your feedback and assure you the appropriate Team has been made aware. Thanks for hanging in there with us!’

However, nearly an hour later, no other statement was issued, and passengers were forced to patiently wait until the FAA rescinded the order – which the agency said it dished out at Southwest’s request.

While resolved, the mishap has wrought more than 1,700 delays across the country – more than 40 percent of all planned flights for the day. Seen here are the planes’ flightpaths Tuesday

In earlier tweets replying to frustrated travelers left stranded on airport runways, Southwest said it ‘had to implement a ground stop as a result of intermittent issues that were experienced’

Still shrouded, the problems come after a similar system outage saw more than 16,000 Southwest flights cancelled in December

‘Southwest Airlines requested the FAA pause the airline’s departures,’ the government agency tasked with enforcing airline safety said Tuesday.

When asked about some of the consequences of the lengthy pause, the agency said that there currently is an ongoing hold in place for all flights into Dallas Love Field Airport, with similar delays at other airports also likely.

Still largely shrouded, the technical issues come just weeks after the Texas-based carrier unveiled an ‘action plan’ to prevent such meltdowns, after it was forced to cancel more than 16,700 flights in late December due to a system error 

Customers with the recent December outages fresh in their minds were seen complaining on social media as news of the pause spread

At the time, the airline attributed the problems to changes to its staff scheduling computer systems, and promised to both the FAA and congress to make painstaking efforts to avoid another crisis. 

In its recently released action plan, Southwest brass said its technical division has ‘taken many weeks of work to sort through the complexity of contributing factors’ that caused last year’s meltdown, which came on the heels of winter storm that affected several airlines.

Southwest, however, was much slower to recover, and struggled to restart operations before the technical glitch. 

Last month, the carrier said the ‘root causes and lessons learned are guiding our efforts to make Southwest (LUV) better prepared to handle truly extreme winter weather events as we move forward.’

Based in Dallas, the airline said it will invest $1.3 billion on technology projects this year alone – a 25 percent increase from the funds it spent in 2019, before the pandemic brought the airline industry to an abrupt halt.