Southwest Airlines Decides Not To Fly A Majority Of Flights – For The Rest Of The Year

After a dreadful weekend of cancelled flights and cancelled Christmas plans for passengers, Southwest cancelled 70% of its flights on Monday. They threw in the towel – which would hopefully have given them time to put planes and people back in position and get employees legally required rest. Major disruptions take days to recover from because aircraft and people are left in cities that aren’t where they need to be.

However they have already cancelled 62% of Tuesday’s schedule, and 62% of Wednesday’s schedule. They may not operate more than a third of their flights through end of the year.

This is intentional, as the airline’s Chief Operating Officer tells employees in a memo:

Airports where Southwest Airlines operates a significant number of flights are chaos around the country.

It was striking to me, by the way, that I could book new seats on Southwest Airlines – a seat would pop up here and there – even as customers with cancelled flights are being told they can’t be reaccommodated for days. Southwest has stopped selling new tickets through December 31.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This all very well for those SWA stranded *at home*, but what about all the folk Southworst has left high and dry away from home or in transit? A lot of their passengers are on a budget and likely financially unprepared to fend for themselves away from home for several days.
    I don’t hear anyone from SWA talking about helping with that issue. Incompetent and thoughtless jerks.

  2. My friend was able to jump on AA and get out of Austin but let’s be fair a lot of Southwest passengers aren’t that flexible economically. I think telling people to go home when they are trying to get home is insensitive . Also I’m seeing where their crews in places like Buffalo have been stranded going on 7 days and no contact made . This is a whole mess . Reminds me of that Spirit breakdown but worst

  3. Southwest is the new Spirit, by a mile…watch the $20B market cap fall by 50% in a few months.

    The most incompetent and ineffective C-suite in the history of the industry. Here comes the congressional inquiries, massive DOT fines and even FAA restrictions on operations.

  4. Where’s Secretary Mr. Pete of Transportation!? Comfy @ home somewhere. I mean this is a transportation crisis!

  5. For all the posters that applaud companies for wading into various social policies to promote social and political change, event like this should be a reminder that all large companies – not just Southwest – could not care less about you or social good. When put under stress, they care about money and covering their butts. Your social justice priorities are just another marketing campaign to be set aside when it is inconvenient. Companies are not our friends. Government policy, for all its imperfections, is a better avenue for fixing problems, including what happens when airlines cancel flights to protect their butts rather pay up for dislocation costs of what is basically a business decision. Cancelling 2/3 of flights 4 days out from weather event to avoid covering meals/hotels for those impacted is simply corporate creed. Nothing more.

  6. As I have said in comments throughout the weekend as this disaster only got worse while other airlines recovered, LUV stock would tank. This event will cost Southwest a half billion dollars or more, wiping out much of their 2022 profit once all of the bills are totaled.
    It will take months for customers to try to get refunds and reimbursements but the DOT is watching and the cost for LUV will roll well into 2023.
    Many customers don’t have the flexibility to whip out a credit card and get their way home another way.
    LUV said it would provide amenities comparable to the legacy carriers but simply has not.
    The reputational damage to Southwest will be enormous and ongoing including from the use of vouchers that will depress their revenue throughout 2023 – for those that are willing to give Southwest another try.

  7. Southwest’s reserve flight crew availability for December must also be completely out of time. This will only add to their problems through the end of the month.

  8. Back in February, a major winter storm hit Europe . . . but, in particular, the UK. Operations at LHR were suspended a few times over the course of several days. BA had to deal with mis-positioned aircraft, mis-positioned crews, and squeezing delayed passengers into what open seats there were on subsequent flights. This was low season and it took BA about two to three weeks to finally get back on track. I can’t imagine SWA getting back on track in a shorter amount of time.

    To what extent was SWA’s cascading network failure attributable to the reported SWA 100 ramp workers at Denver who called in sick? Don’t know. Just asking. Not trying to make a point about labor and/or unions.

  9. Follow-up question: If we look at SWA’s network operations on any given day of the year and if DEN became inop for whatever reason, to what extent would SWA’s network operations be affected? Whether it’s SWA or another airline and whether it’s DEN or another airport and whether it’s weather or labor, such single-point failures are the bugaboo.

  10. Yes Southwest ruined their reputation with passenger trust.for some and perhaps safety reputation from what I read
    However sadly if history repeats itself most passengers 30 days from now will all be flocking back just as soon as they are a dollar cheaper than the next airline

  11. “Southwest will stop selling new tickets through December 31”. I hope they mean December 31, 2023.

  12. This regrettable episode episode does not define an airline. I have flown Southwest for over 30 years and will continue to do so. Southwest will rectify the issues and will be the better for it.

  13. Why was I able to confirm my flight when it had been cancelled already?

    I got no email notification or text nothing. This would have given me time to make other reservations instead of a sold out search!! Horrible experience horrible customer support horrible no notice
    Shame on Southwest I have nothing good to say. You can’t call their phone , website doesn’t work so I drove to the airport the women said I could get in standby to Denver there were 24 seats. Great but she couldn’t do it because the software wasn’t going to book anything until Jaa a n 1.

    So that flight and I imagine many other flights would have lots of empty seats and stranded people they couldn’t help even if they wanted!!

    How Stupid!!

  14. The product of deregulation.

    And Republican/MAGA wants to remove more regulations (like the ones that, for example, currently require airlines to refund a ticket when they cancel a flight instead of doing what they’d rather do, which is give you a credit to use within a year.)

    Crazy stupid.

  15. Secretary “Pete” is no doubt enjoying yet another “materiity leave” so he can tend to his homelife. Or, maybe back in South Bend making copies of the plan he implemented to address the bus issues when he was mayor.

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