SNL Spoofs Southwest Airlines Meltdown

SNL Spoofs Southwest Airlines Meltdown

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Last night’s Saturday Night Live had a skit that aviation geeks may enjoy…

Southwest’s “upgraded airline experience”

On Saturday, January 28, 2023, SNL spoofed Southwest Airlines in a roughly two minute clip. This follows the carrier’s meltdown over the holidays, which stranded over a million travelers, and caused Southwest to lose $800(ish) million.

Heidi Gardner and Devon Walker play the roles of Southwest employees, who are introducing a “new, upgraded airline experience.” Among other things, here’s what that consists of:

  • The entire communications system will be upgraded to 2008 Dell computers, replacing the 2002 ThinkPad laptops “with the little red nipple in the middle”
  • There will be no more missing baggage at baggage claim, because all luggage will be sorted by color, making it the passengers’ responsibility to not lose bags; red bags go to Dallas, while blue bags go to Charlotte
  • Southwest is introducing a new “Premiere Lounge,” located inside an active Starbucks, where they just hold down two to three tables
  • Southwest’s air traffic control network will be modernized; there will be no more pen and paper, but rather the old IBM ThinkPad laptops will now be used, so pilots will no longer find out where they’re going 15 minutes before departure
  • Inflight staff will be “upgraded” strictly to people who used to work at Waffle House, and “these big b!tches don’t play”
  • The segment ends by saying that some of the fault of the meltdown lies with customers, because “you bought a Southwest ticket, you obviously don’t respect yourself, so why should we?”

This is… kind of funny?

View from the Wing writes about this SNL segment, and think it’s “really funny.” Personally I’m more in the “it’s a little bit funny” camp, though admittedly humor is highly subjective.

As is common with these kinds of skits, the humor is kind of targeted at the lowest common denominator. I tend to think the best kind of humor is when it’s actually true. So I thought the mention of the computer upgrade was hilarious, since it does kind of reflect the outdated technology being used in the airline industry.

Meanwhile I wasn’t as amused by red and blue bag comments, or even by suggesting that people don’t respect themselves for flying Southwest. As much as I’m not a Southwest flyer, Southwest is the most full service airline in the United States, with two free checked bags, no charges for carry-ons, no basic economy, free changes on all tickets with vouchers that don’t expire, etc.

I don’t know why it’s the case, but it’s funny to me how Southwest generally gets bunched in with carriers like Allegiant and Spirit when it comes to the services they offer (of course those carriers also add a lot of value to the market, but should come with more of a “buyer beware” warning).

Bottom line

Southwest Airlines was spoofed by SNL this weekend, in a skit that outlined an “upgraded” Southwest experience. I always enjoy mainstream comedy coverage of airlines. This was funny, though there have been some SNL airline skits that I’ve enjoyed more in the past.

What do you make of this Southwest Airlines SNL clip?

Conversations (38)
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  1. kenindfw Guest

    I thought it was a hilarious skit. If you can't poke fun at something like this, what can you poke fun about? Have a sense of humor. People will continue to fly them, I will. Overall they're very reliable and work with you unlike other airlines. They did get caught with their pants down, it happens every once in a while.

    I'm glad I have understanding managers who realize when I say the airline cancelled...

    I thought it was a hilarious skit. If you can't poke fun at something like this, what can you poke fun about? Have a sense of humor. People will continue to fly them, I will. Overall they're very reliable and work with you unlike other airlines. They did get caught with their pants down, it happens every once in a while.

    I'm glad I have understanding managers who realize when I say the airline cancelled my flight and I can't get home for 2 days. At least they don't hold it against me since I have no control. If I had managers who didn't understand that then I would work elsewhere.

  2. JM Guest

    That was a spoof? I've flown Southwest before, I pretty sure it was real.

  3. FlyerDon Guest

    Here in Dallas Southwest gets a free ride from the media no matter what the do, or don’t do. Sometimes I think the reporter for the “Dallas Morning News”, that covers the airline industry, works for Southwest. Way to go SNL!

  4. GBOAC Diamond

    I didn't find the skit funny at all, and I'm guessing I reacted that way because it attempted to spoof WN based on a one-shot (rather than everyday) experience. It you want to make fun of Southwest base it on things that are true about the airline much of the time -- their boarding process, lack of assigned seats, the casual attire of FAs, the non traditional PA takeoff and landing announcements. That would work much better.
    My opinion YMMV

  5. Levi Diamond

    Ben writes: Southwest is the most full service airline in the United States, with two free checked bags, no charges for carry-ons, no basic economy, free changes on all tickets with vouchers that don’t expire, etc.

    Honest question, not directed specifically at Ben: are checked bags and ticket changes more important services than getting you (in one piece, though that's not a concern in the US, by and large) where you want to go at...

    Ben writes: Southwest is the most full service airline in the United States, with two free checked bags, no charges for carry-ons, no basic economy, free changes on all tickets with vouchers that don’t expire, etc.

    Honest question, not directed specifically at Ben: are checked bags and ticket changes more important services than getting you (in one piece, though that's not a concern in the US, by and large) where you want to go at approximately the time you were planning to be there (alternatively: some level of confidence that they will).

    Assuming the answer is yes, absent that confidence, an airline is only for trips which one doesn't particularly value.

    Southwest probably hasn't yet breached that confidence threshold for very many travelers, to be fair, though considering the tail risks in play for the airlines when they meltdown, I would personally question a WN passenger's judgement.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Levi -- You're of course absolutely correct, operational reliability is important, and this was an absolutely massive screwup on Southwest's part. Like, words can't do justice to how bad the airline screwed up here.

      That being said:
      -- This was a one-time thing, and had never happened before at Southwest; even prior to this incident, people have been grouping in Southwest with ultra low cost carriers when it comes to "frills"
      --...

      @ Levi -- You're of course absolutely correct, operational reliability is important, and this was an absolutely massive screwup on Southwest's part. Like, words can't do justice to how bad the airline screwed up here.

      That being said:
      -- This was a one-time thing, and had never happened before at Southwest; even prior to this incident, people have been grouping in Southwest with ultra low cost carriers when it comes to "frills"
      -- Other airlines have had huge issues with operational reliability as well, so does that mean they're not full service airlines? For example, look at when American mechanics were intentionally delaying flights years back, or the multiple operational issues Delta has had since the start of the pandemic, despite previously being "the on-time machine"

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      It simply is not correct that Southwest has not had operational issues as large or larger than other carriers.

      They didn't have one as big as their Christmas 2022 mess - but that just means their Christmas 2022 mess will live on for years as the "gold standard" for how bad airline operational disasters can be.

      There are statistics that are kept and published on operational reliability and have been for decades.

      If you would...

      It simply is not correct that Southwest has not had operational issues as large or larger than other carriers.

      They didn't have one as big as their Christmas 2022 mess - but that just means their Christmas 2022 mess will live on for years as the "gold standard" for how bad airline operational disasters can be.

      There are statistics that are kept and published on operational reliability and have been for decades.

      If you would like to anecdotally cite any airline's operational problems, then you should be able to put it in the context of what other airlines did in the same period of time

      Trying to equate what Southwest did in Christmas 2022 with anything else that has ever happened in the airline industry is a fool's errand. There simply is no comparison.

      And the anecdotes that you cite weren't even operationally significant in light of the operations of other airlines at the time.

    3. Brian Gasser Guest

      I was stuck in their October 2021 meltdown. While it didnt take as long to reset the network compared December 2022, its wrong to say Southwest systems have never been overwhelmed before. Especially when their last issue was 16 months ago.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      Honest answer, not directed specifically at your question.
      The lack of ancillary cash grab doesn't make one a full service airline, otherwise we'd be calling most airlines even EK or SQ a lowcost carrier. LOL.

      Honest response to your question.
      Your question can be rhetorically questioning the existence of a supreme being, or interchangeable with The Matrix, Optimus Prime, Thanos, god, Invisible Pink Unicorn, Living Tribunal, One-Above-All, Lord Voldemort, Chuck Norris etc.

      People...

      Honest answer, not directed specifically at your question.
      The lack of ancillary cash grab doesn't make one a full service airline, otherwise we'd be calling most airlines even EK or SQ a lowcost carrier. LOL.

      Honest response to your question.
      Your question can be rhetorically questioning the existence of a supreme being, or interchangeable with The Matrix, Optimus Prime, Thanos, god, Invisible Pink Unicorn, Living Tribunal, One-Above-All, Lord Voldemort, Chuck Norris etc.

      People want to get from point A to point B within expected time with their belongings with reasonable comfort and not pay huge penalty when plans do change.

      And believe me, they already breached that confidence threshold if only one criteria below is met. No meltdown required.
      Delay longer than 30 mins.
      Didn't get to point B
      Bags not there or in one piece
      Unreasonable comfort, downgrade, lost SPML, ESA, (or some bloggers' favorite) broken seat, etc.
      Need to buy a new ticket

      But as all humans (sorry Chuck Norris), high enough bribery can fix that threshold. Bribes such as, miles, travel credits, full refund, etc.

  6. Richard Guest

    Southwest doesn't monitize checked bags, carry-ons, basic economy, and changes because the IT system cannot handle the functions. An updated IT system would cost hundreds of million; albeit less than the 800 million...

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Richard -- While I do think Southwest is too stuck in its ways, I'm not sure it's necessarily because the airline wasn't willing to make the investment. An investment of hundreds of millions is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars in ancillary revenue that some airlines generate annually.

      I just think Southwest thinks its current business model is better (though I'm not sure I agree).

    2. Bagoly Guest

      I'm sure the new system will be budgeted at less than USD 800 million.
      But if it's SAP then it's quite conceivable that purchase and implementation will come in at more than that, let alone the ongoing maintenance costs.
      Quite how implementation consultants use up so many hours is a mystery, but it happens.

    3. kenindfw Guest

      Upgrading systems is expensive and very time consuming for all parties. Also, if SW did start using systems to collect ancillary revenue (charge for bags, assigned seats, etc.) then they would have to come up with programs to waive bag fees (like all co-branded credit cards with airlines) otherwise people would switch if convenient enough.

      SW also prides itself on turning planes quickly. None of the big 3 can turn a plane quicker than SW....

      Upgrading systems is expensive and very time consuming for all parties. Also, if SW did start using systems to collect ancillary revenue (charge for bags, assigned seats, etc.) then they would have to come up with programs to waive bag fees (like all co-branded credit cards with airlines) otherwise people would switch if convenient enough.

      SW also prides itself on turning planes quickly. None of the big 3 can turn a plane quicker than SW. 15 and done in most cases. AA takes forever!

  7. Never In Doubt Guest

    "you showed your ticket at security?...you good"

    "these big bitches don't play"

    lol x 2

  8. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Southwest rewrote the book on the scale of airline operational disasters. They will live with the reputation for years.
    They didn’t invest in technology that they knew they needed soon enough.
    Of course they will be the butt of jokes
    The real news is that SNL did this a month after the Southwest meltdown which just simply says how long it will take to live down Christmas 2022

    Southwest lost money in...

    Southwest rewrote the book on the scale of airline operational disasters. They will live with the reputation for years.
    They didn’t invest in technology that they knew they needed soon enough.
    Of course they will be the butt of jokes
    The real news is that SNL did this a month after the Southwest meltdown which just simply says how long it will take to live down Christmas 2022

    Southwest lost money in the fourth quarter of 2022 and won’t make money in the first quarter of 2023. WN’s disaster is industry leading and becomes the reference for years to come

    1. Robert Fahr Guest

      #nailedit I belly laughed throughout the skit. If I had been affected by the holiday meltdown, absolutely I would have a very bitter taste in my mouth and a hell no attitude toward SWA. Living in a non hub city where SWA is our #1 carrier, I remain loyal.

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      given that Southwest cites revenue weakness in the 1st quarter of 2023 that other airlines are not experiencing says that there are plenty of people that are choosing not to fly with them.
      Given that AA, DL and UA are reporting or guiding to strong profits in 2 consecutive quarters when WN is expecting or reported losses says the financial damage was very real
      Of course there are people that are immune to...

      given that Southwest cites revenue weakness in the 1st quarter of 2023 that other airlines are not experiencing says that there are plenty of people that are choosing not to fly with them.
      Given that AA, DL and UA are reporting or guiding to strong profits in 2 consecutive quarters when WN is expecting or reported losses says the financial damage was very real
      Of course there are people that are immune to whatever any airline throws at them. But that doesn't mean that there wasn't huge damage that will take time to recover and, more specific to SNL, that the scope of what WN had makes them the butt of jokes for a very long time to come.

    3. Brian Gasser Guest

      While a hit to Q4 earnings, I doubt it will be long lasting. Lets see who turns more profit for 2023, Delta or Southwest. There is a reason why Southwest is investment grade while Delta is currently not.

    4. Tim Dunn Diamond

      first, Delta did have investment grade credit ratings pre-covid and is committed to not just getting it back but having it from all 3 agencies.
      investment grade ratings are due to balance sheet strength as much if not more than earnings.
      And, in pre-covid days, Delta was much more profitable on a dollar basis than Southwest.
      Southwest never had defined benefit pension plans and flies to a fraction of the cities that...

      first, Delta did have investment grade credit ratings pre-covid and is committed to not just getting it back but having it from all 3 agencies.
      investment grade ratings are due to balance sheet strength as much if not more than earnings.
      And, in pre-covid days, Delta was much more profitable on a dollar basis than Southwest.
      Southwest never had defined benefit pension plans and flies to a fraction of the cities that any of the big 3 fly to.
      The thesis of low cost carriers has always been to pick off the highest volume routes that the network carriers fly. While there is nothing that keeps the legacy carriers flying to the cities they do, they have built a global transportation system, something no other low cost carrier including Southwest has done.
      And AA and DL are both committed to aggressively improving their balance sheets. Why don't you sit tight a year and see how well the big 3's balance sheets look?
      And Southwest is expected to lose money in the 1st quarter which is a direct result of their revenue weakness which their execs specifically said is related to lack of their own consumer confidence - which other airlines are not reporting.
      DL is expecting a very strong 2023 in part because it is restoring capacity far faster in 2023 than any other carrier and will gain alot of the efficiencies it did not have in 2022.
      AA's earnings were in line with DAL and UAL's in the 4th quarter - that hasn't been seen in over a decade.
      The legacy carriers are running on all cylinders; WN shot itself in the foot just as it was about ready to show strong earnings growth despite Boeing's delays in delivering the MAX7.
      LUV will take a 2 year hit to its financial position because of their meltdown. NO other airline has ever paid as high of a price.

  9. Donna Diamond

    I agree with Gary on this one, I thought it was hilarious. It’s humor after all, leave the woke stuff for serious matters.

  10. bo Guest

    I think it's totally hilarious. Not sure why your upset about red and blue suitcases. I hope you're not implying that the differentiation of suitcase color is somehow offensive?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ bo -- I'm not at all upset about the luggage comment, and didn't find it offensive. I just personally prefer humor when it's true, and that was so outlandish that it just didn't really make me laugh.

  11. Hey There Guest

    Oh, reviewer totally missed the point on practically all of the skit & taking this was too seriously. It is ALL fair game considering the absolute fiasco that was in the making for years. They didn’t even mention that some execs got promotions after all this, so it’s true SW doesn’t respect you, cuz you don’t respect yourself by flying SW to begin with…in parentheses, we fly SW cuz they are cheap & we shouldn’t...

    Oh, reviewer totally missed the point on practically all of the skit & taking this was too seriously. It is ALL fair game considering the absolute fiasco that was in the making for years. They didn’t even mention that some execs got promotions after all this, so it’s true SW doesn’t respect you, cuz you don’t respect yourself by flying SW to begin with…in parentheses, we fly SW cuz they are cheap & we shouldn’t expect much more. This sketch along w State Farm’s were hilarious, cuz we all think there’s a grain of truth in everything they said.

  12. AntJFK Guest

    Moderately funny, and the Waffle House comment was great. But nothing compares to Aubrey Plaza playing the French Miss Universe contestant in last week’s show.

    1. Guest Guest

      Not even comparable. Aubrey was fine, but just a silly caricature who didn’t say much. The SW sketch was based on real events & took some effort to pull together in 2 minutes. Funny from beginning to end, as all the actors were deadly serious.

    2. Icarus Guest

      Omg I just watched both ( it’s from 2018) including the real version lol Fraaance!

  13. ORD_Is_My_Second_Home Member

    Good, but not as good as the two recent sketches involving Sunwing on Canada's weekly satire show This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The one from last week involving Mark Critch as a Canadian army general explaining his tactic for hobbling the Russians in Ukraine, namely making Sunwing responsible for troop transport to the front and explaining in excruciating detail the flight arrangements (including losing baggage on the way), was fantastic.

  14. Eskimo Guest

    Southwest is the most full service airline in the United States?

    This stuff is funnier than the SNL skit.

    1. Sel, D. Guest

      Full service, but……
      No first class
      No ability to reserve a seat
      Need to check-in right at T-24 to secure your place in the Southwest Sheeple Sweepstakes
      No food for purchase, even on transcon and Hawaii flights
      Hardly leaves the US, and very expensive fares when they do as the majority of those travelers have the Payless Shoes BOGO Companion Pass

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      ...no lounges.
      No partners for alternative routing/earning.
      No interlines for, say: redistributing people caught in epic meltdown conditions.

    3. Sel, D. Guest

      Could you imagine a Southwest Airlines lounge?! Now there’s your SNL skit. Maybe you’re C26 for the bathroom line, but at least you have your companion pass.

    4. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Could you imagine a Southwest Airlines lounge?!

      Indeed, I'm picturing any given Midwestern bar after a Bears vs. Packers game.

    5. Zach B Guest

      They charge full service prices, that's for sure.

    1. Oh no! Guest

      Cuz it WAS pretty funny. I’m sure SW wouldn’t think so, but how can you NOT laugh at something that’s true…their pilots had warned of this for years…a perfect storm finally happened: outdated systems, Holiday travel & bad weather.

    2. Bagoly Guest

      Agree - I'm surprised it didn't chime with Ben.
      To me, the root of the humour is the slick production clashing with the ghastly offered narrative; the connection to the actual narrative is only secondary.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sel, D. Guest

Full service, but…… No first class No ability to reserve a seat Need to check-in right at T-24 to secure your place in the Southwest Sheeple Sweepstakes No food for purchase, even on transcon and Hawaii flights Hardly leaves the US, and very expensive fares when they do as the majority of those travelers have the Payless Shoes BOGO Companion Pass

3
Eskimo Guest

Southwest is the most full service airline in the United States? This stuff is funnier than the SNL skit.

3
Tim Dunn Diamond

It simply is not correct that Southwest has not had operational issues as large or larger than other carriers. They didn't have one as big as their Christmas 2022 mess - but that just means their Christmas 2022 mess will live on for years as the "gold standard" for how bad airline operational disasters can be. There are statistics that are kept and published on operational reliability and have been for decades. If you would like to anecdotally cite any airline's operational problems, then you should be able to put it in the context of what other airlines did in the same period of time Trying to equate what Southwest did in Christmas 2022 with anything else that has ever happened in the airline industry is a fool's errand. There simply is no comparison. And the anecdotes that you cite weren't even operationally significant in light of the operations of other airlines at the time.

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