The airlines were unreliable on Christmas. The weather issues we saw throughout the country didn't help, as airlines are pushed to their limits during these peak travel periods The weather isn't as important as it used to be. If you were a passenger on Southwest Airlines, you wouldn't know this.

Southwest Airlines cancels thousands of flights

Southwest Airlines has been melting down all over the country. Southwest is having its worst day yet.

As of the time of this post, Southwest Airlines has canceled more flights than any other airline. Over 2,500 flights. We are not talking about delays but cancelations. I wouldn't be surprised if more than 75% of flights are canceled by the end of the day.

Southwest canceled 42% of its flights and Delayed 42% of its flights. Ten percent of flights operated as scheduled yesterday.

Over the past couple of years airlines have struggled with staffing shortages. I don't recall the last time an airline canceled more than half of its flights in a single day.

This isn't about weather at all, it's about how the weather has improved around the country. Southwest has similar markets to American in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and other places. When American sets the standard for operational reliability, I feel like I am living in a different reality.

Southwest is doing a terrible job of recovering. The airline doesn't have enough employees to recover from staffing issues

Southwest is canceling most flights today

Is it time for the government to do something?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I want to ask if a public policy failure is to blame for the current situation at some airlines.

The lack of consumer protections for airline passengers in the United States has been going on for a long time.

The DOT published an airline customer service dashboard to give airline customers a sense of what they can expect when things go wrong.

When one of the largest airlines cancels most of its flights because it has too many flights, and when travel plans for hundreds of thousands of travelers are ruined, that wasn't enough.

Maybe airlines would be more conservative with their schedule if they were more accountable for operational breakdowns.

  • Airlines’ only obligations seem to be to shareholders, and they want to sell as many seats as they can for as many flights as possible, to maximize revenue; they hope for the best, and fail to plan for the worst
  • If Southwest had planned its holiday operation more conservatively, the airline almost certainly wouldn’t have melted down in this way
  • US airlines don’t have to meaningfully compensate passengers when things go wrong, so worst case scenario passengers get a refund, but that doesn’t exactly make them whole
  • Based on the reports I’m seeing, airport employees are blaming almost all cancelations on “weather” (even if the issue is the carrier’s inability to recover from bad weather, rather than the weather as such), and therefore the claim is that the airline doesn’t have to pay for hotels, provide meal vouchers, etc.
  • Southwest doesn’t have an interline agreement with other airlines, so passengers on canceled Southwest flights can’t even be rebooked on other airlines (not that there are many empty seats to rebook people on)

The system is designed to minimize the downside for airlines being overly optimistic with their schedule planning, to the benefit of passengers. If your flight is delayed or canceled for an issue within the carrier's control, you can get up to 600 Euro in cash compensation.

It is possible that airlines would plan their schedules a bit more conservatively because it would be much more expensive to melt down to this point.

Would more regulation improve operational reliability?

Bottom line

Southwest Airlines is in disarray as it has canceled most of its flights today. Southwest doesn't have enough staff in place to recover from the bad weather so it will be chaotic for the next few days.

Have you been caught up in the Southwest mess? Do you think there is a solution to this problem?