Southwest Airlines diverted its Boeing 737 to Milwaukee

January 3rd, 2023
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Southwest Airlines diverted its Boeing 737 to Milwaukee

Wednesday, Southwest Airlines‘ flight from Chicago to Phoenix was diverted to Milwaukee after a potential mechanical issue was discovered. As the airline attempts to recover from a series of flight cancellations this holiday season, the diversion comes as thousands of passengers are left stranded.

The diversion to Milwaukee

Southwest Airlines Flight 1715 took off from Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) at 12:45 pm Central Time on Wednesday, December 28th. An hour or so into the flight, the crew of the aircraft realized one of the wings was malfunctioning and consequently diverted to Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE), where it landed around 2:47 pm Central Time. The aircraft in question was a Boeing 737-800.

In Milwaukee, a separate plane was brought in to take passengers to their planned destination. The flight arrived in Phoenix almost four hours later than planned.

A rough week for Southwest Airlines

Flight 1715’s diversion comes at a time when Southwest is already dealing with delays and cancellations. The airline canceled 2,509 flights on Wednesday and 2,348 on Thursday, bringing its weekly total to nearly 5,000.

A number of factors have contributed to Southwest’s flurry of cancellations. Most notably, extreme weather continues to make traveling to and from central and eastern states difficult. However, this is an annual event, and it does not excuse Southwest from stranding 70% of its entire operation.

The bigger concern is the staffing shortage that has put increased pressure on this already-tough relationship between the airline and its employees. In Denver, around 120 ramp agents abandoned their jobs on the spot after the airline issued a statement requiring a doctor’s note to validate sick days and blanket rejecting personal absences. The purpose of the statement was to ensure that the company had enough personnel to continue operations during the holidays, but clearly it had the opposite effect.

Southwest Airlines faces an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation following the meltdown, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg promising to hold the airline accountable.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel; the airline announced today that it expects to resume normal operations on Friday. So far, only 40 flights have been canceled on Friday.

Southwest Airlines is struggling to keep its operation afloat at the moment due to the diversion of flight 1715 from Chicago to Milwaukee on its way to Phoenix. In the past week, almost 5,000 flights have been canceled, and the Department of Transportation is investigating. Trying to repair its relationship with employees and ensuring that such a meltdown does not occur again would be a good move for Southwest.