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Southwest Airlines facing operational meltdown
Looking at published data, Southwest Airlines has either canceled or delayed nearly 4,000 flights over a three day period (and counting), with no end in sight to these issues. Here’s how many cancelations and delays we’ve seen from Southwest between Friday and today:
- On Friday, June 25, 2021, Southwest canceled 254 flights (6% of the schedule) and delayed 1,575 flights (42% of the schedule)
- On Saturday, June 26, 2021, Southwest canceled 307 flights (9% of the schedule) and delayed 1,440 flights (42% of the schedule)
- On Sunday, June 27, 20217, Southwest canceled 38 flights (1% of the schedule) and delayed 308 flights (8% of the schedule)
I would imagine the number of cancelations and delays will continue to grow as the day goes on. While cancelations seem to be more under control today than yesterday, I would expect that we’ll probably see 1,000+ delays again today (Sunday). I’d hope that the schedule stabilizes a bit as the week starts, but given what a busy week it will be for travel, I’m skeptical.
While Southwest is rebooking people as much as possible, many passengers are finding that the next flight with availability is only a couple of days later. This comes as we’re seeing a record number of travelers since the start of the pandemic, with domestic flights being just about as full as they were pre-pandemic.
What’s the cause of Southwest’s cancelations?
Officially a Southwest Airlines spokesperson blames these cancelations on the weather and air traffic control:
“To proactively manage our operation, we implemented a scheduled reduction ahead of expected storms and probable air traffic control initiatives.”
In all likelihood that doesn’t tell the full story, and certainly doesn’t explain roughly half of flights being either delayed or canceled for the past couple of days (especially when you consider other airlines aren’t having issues to this extent). While weather definitely contributed to delays and cancelations, the much bigger cause is likely the extent to which airlines’ operations are being pushed to the limits right now.
Many major carriers in the United States are short staffed across various roles, from pilots to rampers. Airlines are obviously excited about the sudden surge in demand for travel, and went about setting up their summer schedules in an optimistic way. Clearly Southwest was a bit too optimistic, and we’re seeing the impacts of that right now.
When things go wrong in the airline industry there tends to be a domino effect. So yes, on some level weather has contributed to these issues. But what we’re seeing at Southwest goes beyond that.
Southwest Airlines is either canceling or delaying thousands of flights. On Friday 48% of Southwest flights were either delayed or canceled, which yesterday 51% of Southwest flights were either delayed or canceled — that’s terrible. While this is officially being blamed on weather, it clearly also reflects the extent to which Southwest’s operation is being pushed to the limit right now.
Have any OMAAT readers been impacted by Southwest’s operational issues?