5 things to know about Southwest's disastrous meltdown

Young families delayed at the airport for Christmas. Flight attendants and pilots sleeping on floors. Huge bags 

containing gifts and medication stuck in the wrong airport. And angry travelers on hold for hours.

Flight disruptions were caused by a major winter storm, but the company's internal software systems seem to have triggered an unusual calamity.

To minimize expenses, many airlines employ a "hub and spoke" system, routing flights through a few major airports. 

Southwest has long emphasized its "point to point" method. Though thinner daily, it requires 

intricate scheduling to get planes, pilots, and flight crews to the right place at the right time.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan called the airline's catastrophe a "giant puzzle" to solve. He added that the corporation needed to speed its "already 

Southwest isn't a fly-by-night or budget airline where passengers expect pain. The corporation was respected and sometimes liked.

"They've got the best reputation for customer service and management agility," aviation expert Richard Aboulafia told NPR. "They're usually pretty good at responding to crises."

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