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Southwest Airlines flights show as canceled on board at Midway Airport

Southwest Airlines flights continue to show as cancelled at Midway International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Chicago.

Erin Hooley

The Rundown: How Southwest Airlines broke down

Good afternoon! It’s Wednesday, and I’m looking forward to season 3 of “The Witcher.” Here’s what you need to know today.

1. How Southwest Airlines ground to a halt

Travel analysts say Southwest’s transportation systems, antiquated technology and burnt-out employees led to ongoing troubles that include the cancellation of more than 2,500 flights today and at least 1,400 more tomorrow, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Many big airlines run what is known as a “hub-and-spoke” system, in which shorter flights go back and forth between larger airports, but Southwest uses a “point-to-point” system that has planes going from destination to destination in the same direction. Point-to-point airlines can leave customers waiting for planes to arrive, former airline executive and airline consultant Robert Mann told the newspaper.

Adding to the problem, Southwest doesn’t swap tickets with other carriers.

And while most airlines use automated technology for staffing and scheduling flights, Southwest uses a manual system that can take days to correct. Mann added the airline’s mandatory overtime led to some burned out employees simply quitting, and a surge in respiratory illnesses meant more people calling out sick. [Chicago Sun-Times]

The Washington Post has answers to questions from Southwest customers, including how to submit a request for a refund for a canceled flight. [Washington Post]

2. CTA trains saw a lower violent crime rate in 2022 — but still double the pre-pandemic level

The arrest rate for violent crimes on the “L” is also at its lowest in a decade, the Chicago Tribune reports.

January through November 2022 saw 6.2 violent crimes per million rides, down from 6.8 per million over a similar time period the year before. Despite the slight improvement, crime on the CTA remains near its highest point in the past 10 years.

And as the Tribune reports: “Overall, the raw number of violent crimes on the CTA rail system rose in the first 11 months of 2022, compared with a similar period last year, from 489 to 591. But ridership was also up in 2022, and that ended up slightly lowering the odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime.”

The crime and arrest numbers trouble some Chicagoans, who told the Tribune they avoid taking CTA trains as a result, especially at night.

Chicago Police have said more officers will patrol trains, along with unarmed, private security guards and K-9 security teams. [Chicago Tribune]

3. Developers propose $1 billion in renovation plans for LaSalle Street

Most of the redevelopment plans would convert seven of the central Loop buildings from office space to residential, my colleague David Roeder reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

The proposals were offered in response to the city’s call for ideas to bring the financial district, which is suffering from high vacancy rates, back to life. Public subsidies, such as TIF and tax credits, could be available depending on the specific project.

Developers were asked to commit to making at least 30% of new housing in the district affordable.

The most expensive renovation would involve turning the office floors of 135 S. LaSalle, which used to house Bank of America, into 430 residences. This project would cost $258 million. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. A Bangladeshi immigrant reconnects with Islam in Chicago

Feeling isolated and longing for home, Shahnur Rahman deepened her connection with her faith and the Muslim community she found in the city, Tasmiha Khan writes for WBEZ.

Shanur barely spoke English and didn’t know her way around town when she immigrated in the 1980s. Her husband often wasn’t supportive of her desire to follow the rules of hijab properly, she said.

“He was too worried about assimilating, since we already looked different and we were coming from a foreign land,” Shahnur told WBEZ.

As she sought to reconnect with Islam as an adult, it was the solitude of being in Illinois and away from what she knew that allowed Shahnur to delve into the nuances of her religion and its practices. She began to read the Quran more often and to pray more consistently. And over the years, she’s found like-minded people through meetings at her mosque and other Bengali Muslim events. [WBEZ]

5. A local computer programmer tracked the most-played Christmas songs on 93.9 LITE FM this year

Spoiler: Mariah Carey’s “All I want For Christmas is You” may seem ubiquitous during the holiday season, but the song wasn’t even in the top five.

Mount Prospect native Matt Fitzgerald developed a computer program that tracked which songs the radio station played the most between Nov. 2 and Monday, when its Christmas music marathon ended.

“Growing up, you listen to 93.9 as the Christmas station,” Fitzgerald told Block Club Chicago. “I got frustrated. I thought I kept hearing the same songs over and over. I wanted to see how big their song library is.”

The results: Most-played this season was “Sleigh Ride” — four versions of the song were played 635 times in total. [Block Club Chicago]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Former Pope Benedict XVI’s health is “worsening,” the Vatican says. [AP]

  • The Supreme Court allowed border restrictions for asylum seekers to continue for now. [NPR]

  • China plans to resume issuing passports and visas as the country loosens COVID-19 restrictions. [AP]

  • Another co-leader in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison. [AP]

Oh, and one more thing …

If the thought of coming up with a new year’s resolution — and sticking to it all year — is overwhelming, NPR’s Life Kit may be able to help.

Whether you want to start therapy, travel with friends or figure out your life purpose, there’s an expert guide for that.

The key to all these goals, behavior scientist BJ Fogg told Life Kit, is to understand how changes happen and have the motivation, ability to do the behavior and a prompt. [NPR]

Tell me something good ...

What are your new year’s resolutions for 2023?

Renu says:

“I want to start eating slower and making effort to thank those who work hard to get our food on the table. I’m talking farmers, restaurant and dhaba chefs, family, grocery workers, shopkeepers, delivery drivers…”

Feel free to email me, and your response may be included in the newsletter this week.

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