Inside Southwest Airlines’ December Crisis Response

May 2023
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PRSA Member Exclusive: Linda Rutherford of Southwest Airlines on the Major Issues Facing Communicators Today. View the bonus video here.

During the week between this past Christmas and New Year’s Day, Winter Storm Elliott caused far-reaching disruptions to U.S. airlines at the height of the holiday travel season.

However, the impact of the sprawling weather system turned into a widespread operational meltdown for Southwest Airlines that left an estimated 2 million travelers unable to reach their intended destinations.

From reported staffing shortages to outdated software systems, Southwest struggled to return to a relatively normal flight schedule. It was an unprecedented event for the Dallas-based airline, not to mention its top communicator.


Here, Linda Rutherford, chief administration and communications officer at Southwest and a 31-year veteran at the airline, takes us through their crisis response and its lingering impact on the well-regarded brand.

Return to Current Issue Crisis Management | May 2023
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