Southwest Airlines opens the door on its new flight operations center

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DALLAS, TX (KTVI) –The holiday travel season is almost here and it can be a stressful time for sure.  Southwest Airlines recently opened a new state-of-the-art Network Operations Control center (NOC) from which they manage all aspects of their large fleet’s daily operations.

It is an impressive facility with an even more impressive mission to handle the massive logistics needed to keep 3400 plus flights a day flying safely and on time.

There NOC floor is filled with aviation experts of all kinds.  From dispatchers, customer service coordinators, crew specialists, pilots, ground operations experts, maintenance and the list goes on and on.

Steve Christl is the NOC director and he says they have a strong focus on "getting off on the right foot" in the morning.  "We really want to start strong for the day.  We have a very complex network and if we don't get off to a good starts it's very hard to keep up."

That's why every morning at 830 am, key players report to the situation room for a mass briefing that covers everything from yesterday's loose ends to today's biggest challenges. "We have a much better chance of staying on time through the rest of the day," Christl says.

On top of the most wanted list of information, the latest weather updates.

Rick Curtis, Southwest Chief Meteorologist leads up a group of six degreed forecasters.  "It's huge.  Every day we face new challenges.  We fly across the entire 48 states and a lot of the Caribbean.  We have a lot of major operations at various places around the country.  If weather hits any one of those spots it can be a huge ripple effect," says Curtis.

By far their biggest concern is with major winter storms.  Curtis says it's possible for them have many sites impacted from Denver to the Midwest and up into the northeast by one single storm, with major consequences to air travel.

NOC Director Christl says customer impact is always on top of their mind when making flight cancellation decisions.  "We want to provide a good product to our customers as we deal with those things that are out of our control, like weather.  It becomes a balancing act.

As part of the new NOC, Southwest has dramatically beefed up their social media presence.  They monitor just about every mention of Southwest and are ready to act on that "intelligence" to make changes to operations that will positively impact customer satisfaction, safety and operations.

Follow Chris Higgins on Facebook and Twitter:
Chris Higgins on Facebook
Chris Higgins on Twitter
Email: christopher.higgins@tvstl.com