Lawmakers are expected to hear a damning report of the circumstances which lead to 16,700 Southwest flights being cancelled this Christmas in what its pilots’ union has dubbed a “meltdown“.

Today the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is expected to hear allegations that the business ignored warning signs, condoned poor performance, made excuses and forgot its core values. The prepared testimony, reported by CNN, will come from Southwest’s pilots’ union with its president, Captain Casey Murray, saying he “accurately predicted a major holiday meltdown during a SWAPA Number Podcast recorded just a month before Southwest’s catastrophic failure”.

A release ahead of Captain Murray’s testimony stated: “SWAPA pilots have been sounding the alarm for years about Southwest’s outdated IT and crew scheduling processes, and they have been summarily ignored. Captain Murray looks forward to answering the Committee’s questions and shedding light on problems that have been plaguing Southwest for years to ensure that our pilots and passengers have a reliable travel experience going forward.”

Among the union’s evidence is a message seen by CNN from a cockpit computer, reading: “Sched is asking to confirm who is operating this flight. Pls send emp numbers to confirm. It’s a mess down here.” Another message in all capital letters, which is standard for this type of cockpit display, reads: “No updates here. Scheduling is so far behind we were told we aren’t allowed to walk over and talk to them.”

The debacle saw 91% of all Southwest’s flights cancelled at one point—courtesy of a combination of winter storms and a unique problem with its operational systems.

Southwest executive Andrew Watterson is expected to apologize to travelers for the pandemonium during the hearing and said the carrier has already “had an opportunity to test some newly-implemented mitigation efforts” when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded flights last month due to its own computer failure.

A statement from Watterson seen by the Wall Street Journal adds, “Let me be clear: we messed up. In hindsight, we did not have enough winter operational resilience. Please know that with the mitigations we have in place, we are confident in our flight network and the schedules we have published for sale.”

The airline has also said it has made investments to prepare for similar cold snaps, as well as improving telephone systems and softwares, as well as bringing in a new team to control its command center.

‘Held together by duct tape’

The union’s testimony is also expected to outline how Watterson, as well as Southwest CEO Bob Jordan, “inherited a massive, complex operation held together by duct tape and baling wire,” adding that crumbling tech systems meant systems failed “with increasing frequency and magnitude”.

Overseeing the hearing will be Senator Maria Cantwell, who said ahead of the meeting: “We know this won’t be the last snowstorm to hit this country. So let’s figure why Southwest’s operations collapsed and what needs to change so this never happens again on Southwest or any other airline.”

The Senate Commerce Committee will soon begin working on legislation to reauthorize the FAA, Sen. Cantwell added: “We’ll be deciding how to strengthen protections for consumers, and what promises we need the airlines to make and keep about how they operate our nation’s air passenger system. What we learn at this hearing will greatly inform what reforms we put in place.”

Also expected to appear in the hearing are representatives from Flyers’ Rights and Airlines for America. Southwest did not immediately respond when contacted for comment.

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