Southwest Airlines: Fallen From Grace?

5 min read

Happy New Year to all of our valued subscribers. 

As we all know, the uber-successful Southwest Airlines is back in the news, but this time it is not for the many decades of unbroken profitable success, but for one of its largest failures. Although Southwest started in 1967 as Air Southwest Co and by Herbert Kelleher and Rollin King, it later became Southwest Airlines Co. In his article, Why is Southwest Airlines so Successful?Christopher Harrow wrote:

Southwest began under a different name- Air Southwest Co. founded by Herbert Kelleher and Rollin King in Texas in 1967. For its time, its business model was revolutionary, and threatened to undercut many of the more established Texan airlines.

The success of Southwest Airlines is unmatched in many ways. In the introduction to his October 2022 article, The Success Of Southwest Airlines, Levin highlights some of the reasons why Southwest is so successful:

Southwest Airlines is one of the most successful airlines in the United States. The company has been in operation since 1971 and has been profitable every year since 1973. Southwest is the largest operator of Boeing 737 aircraft and has the largest domestic passenger airline market share. The company has a number of competitive advantages that have contributed to its success. One is its low-cost business model. Southwest has been able to keep its costs low by using a single type of aircraft, the Boeing 737, and by using a simplified fare structure. This has allowed the company to offer low fares, which has been a key to attracting passengers. Another competitive advantage for Southwest is its strong brand. The company has built a loyal customer base by providing good customer service and by offering a unique flying experience. Southwest is known for its fun and friendly culture, and its passengers often feel like they are part of a community. Finally, Southwest has been able to successfully navigate the turbulence in the airline industry. While other airlines have been struggling, Southwest has been able to maintain its profitability. This is due in part to the company’s nimble business model, which allows it to quickly adapt to changes in the industry. Southwest Airlines’ competitive advantages have helped it become one of the most successful airlines in the United States. The company’s low-cost business model, strong brand, and ability to navigate the turbulence in the airline industry have all contributed to its success.

It is worth noting that tremendous success such as this is not without its equal amount of challenges. It is no doubt that Southwest had to overcome tremendous challenges in the past to become this successful. In this digest, we want to share some articles on one of the largest challenges that Southwest has encountered in many years. This is the issue with their recent massive flight cancellations, which is alleged to be caused by not only the inherent challenges in running a point-to-point system but also old and possibly outdated software that is used to manage the scheduling for this system. It is also rumored that there was a massive ‘sickout’ by a large number of the airlines’ ground crew. Any of these could pose a serious challenge given the type of business model Southwest runs. It is clear that they have overcome many challenges in the past to become successful, however, only time will tell how they deal with this major challenge in its entirety.

Why Is Southwest Having So Many Cancellations While Other Airlines Are Not?

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The reason Southwest Airlines has seen as many as 70% of its flights canceled in one day, while other airlines have seen far lower numbers, has less to do with the weather than you think. “We’ve lacked infrastructure for years and years and years,” said Capt. Tom Nekoeui, the second vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), the union that represents the airline’s pilots.  According to Nekoeui, the cancellations have to do with something called the “point-to-point” model. The term refers to how Southwest Airlines sets its routes.

By Fernando Hurtado | NBC Los Angeles

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Why Southwest Airlines is canceling so many flights

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Southwest Airlines is grappling with a wave of cancellations and delays that are stranding holiday travelers, a situation the CEO says highlights its need to modernize its operation. While most carriers were plagued by winter storms over the holiday weekend, only Southwest was forced to cancel a majority of its trips, pointing to systemic scheduling issues that have plagued the airline for years.

By Karl Evers-Hillstrom | The Hill

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Has Southwest Airlines Finally Crossed the Line?

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“Our Administration is working to ensure airlines are held accountable.” A massive influx of flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines has drawn national scrutiny, including from the Senate, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and President Joe Biden himself. Over 15,000 flights were canceled by all airlines between last Thursday and Christmas Day, CNN reported, with Southwest accounting for a major number of them. Flight tracking website FlightAware showed an additional 2,509 cancellations on Southwest on Wednesday morning, accounting for 62 percent of all expected flights.

By Nick Mordowanec | Newsweek

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Southwest Airlines’ holiday meltdown brings on federal investigation

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Dallas-based Southwest Airlines faces a federal investigation into whether it violated its own legally required customer service plan amid a blizzard of flight cancellations that ruined plans and angered travelers over the Christmas holiday. In a statement late Monday, officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation called the service meltdown, which resulted in the cancellation or delay of most of the carrier’s flights over the holiday weekend, “disproportionate and unacceptable.”

By Karen Brooks Harper | The Texas Tribune

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Thank you for reading this week’s On Aviation™ digest. Do you believe this is the end of Southwest as we know it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and remember to continue the conversation on our Twitter and Instagram.

Orlando – On Aviation™


Note: The views and opinions expressed in the content shared in this digest are for informational purposes only, are solely those of the original content creators, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of On Aviation™ or its affiliates.

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