Nationwide ground stop on Southwest flights lifted

Updated at 12:38 p.m.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES said Tuesday planes are taking off again after departures were held up because of what the airline calls an intermittent technical problem. The Federal Aviation Administration said only that Southwest requested the pause on flights, and referred questions to the Dallas-based airline. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO / RICHARD VOGEL

DALLAS (AP) – Southwest Airlines planes were grounded nationwide for what the airline called an intermittent technology issue, causing more than 1,700 flight delays Tuesday just four months after the carrier suffered a meltdown over the Christmas travel rush. 

The hold on departures was lifted by late morning, shortly after it was announced, according to Southwest and the Federal Aviation Administration, but not before traffic at airports from Denver to New York City backed up. 

“Southwest has resumed operations after temporarily pausing flight activity this morning to work through data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure,” the Dallas airline said in a prepared statement. “Early this morning, a vendor-supplied firewall went down and connection to some operational data was unexpectedly lost.” 

The airline urged customers to check on their flight status “and explore self-service options” for travel as the airline worked on restoring its operation. 

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The issue appeared to not effect flights in and out of Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport Tuesday. No cancelations were reported but there were some delays. At 12:01 p.m. five Southwest departures scheduled out of T.F. Green had status “check with airline.” R.I. Airport Corp. spokesman John Goodman Tuesday encouraged travelers to always check with their airlines regarding any potential residual delays and that updated flight status for all airlines are available at T.F Green’s website: https://flyri.com.

By late morning on the East Coast, Southwest accounted for well over half of all delays nationwide, but the airline had canceled fewer than a dozen flights, according to FlightAware. 

Tuesday’s flight freeze was brief, but it added to the picture of an airline that has struggled more than most with technology issues. CEO Robert Jordan has embarked on a campaign to repair the airline’s damaged reputation. 

In December, Southwest canceled nearly 17,000 flights over the Christmas holiday due to bad weather and its crew-scheduling system becoming overwhelmed. Those cancelations cost the airline more than $1 billion. The Transportation Department is investigating the breakdown. 

The airline’s unions have said they warned management about problems with the crew-scheduling system after a previous meltdown in October 2021. 

Southwest said last month it would add deicing equipment and increase staffing during winter weather that is cold enough to limit the amount of time that ground workers can stay outside. 

(Update: Comment from R.I. Airport Corp. spokesman John Goodman added in 4th paragraph)

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