The bad weather is causing airlines to cancel a lot of flights. An airline that was caught in the wrong places, its data and phone systems hopelessly inadequate, and stranding thousands of angry passengers and employees for days, suffered a catastrophic meltdown.
Did you mean Southwest? In 2007, what became known in the industry as the Valentine's Day massacre, occurred.
The founder of JetBlue, David Neeleman, worked for the founder of Southwest before he started his own airline. Southwest has a low cost carrier. Southwest's people-first approach had served the carrier well until decades worth of cheerfully earned good will got canceled this week.
The logo on the fuselage is the only thing that hasn't changed. A severe weather system that had been predicted a week in advance produced cold and snow in Denver and Chicago. The chaos from coast to coast, even in places that didn't have snow, is inexplicable. Unless the Biden administration can convince the airlines to behave differently, the breakdowns will continue.
We want to fly in the worst way in order to make up for journeys lost during the Pandemic. We are indeed. Demand for flights is off the charts, and fares have gained altitude because the number of flights has not returned to normal levels. The network was like the airplane smoking section.
Knock-on effects can disrupt the entire network if the industry is running at 85% of capacity. Southwest is vulnerable because it has a point-to-point route that leads to Denver and Seattle. The hub-and-spoke approach of the other major airlines provides more flexibility.
The industry's performance is not good on blue-sky days. More than 20% of flights at Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy airports weren't on time through September.
We haven't had a week like this since Memorial Day, when airlines were forced to cancel flights because of bad weather and a lack of crews. Pete Buttigieg threatened to fine carriers over the cancellation. The dashboard was created by the Department of Transportation to help consumers understand their rights. The senator called on the department to fine airlines $55,000 for every flight cancellation they know can't be staffed.
The Biden administration knows that lining up on the side of passengers is not a good idea. Around the holidays, thousands of flights have been canceled. The president said that the administration is working to make airlines accountable.
It is disconcerting that other members of Congress, airline regulars, haven't seen this issue the same way and given the regulators more carrots and sticks to work with. Regulators can sometimes be beholden to the regulated. The Trump administration did not want to tighten airline regulations. The FAA has been kept at a distance by the carriers.
Passengers have made a trade-off over the years. They were able to get lower fares and more access to airlines. Ultra-low-cost carriers such as Breeze were founded by Mr. Neeleman. Competitive pricing has been good for everyone.
The trade-off is that everything else about flying deteriorated over time. We think these trade-offs can't get any worse. Frontier recently eliminated its telephone agents. There is a problem. You need to rebook because of the weather. You can chat with its friendly robot. The Pandemic has allowed carriers to push more of the work on us passengers.
Now that the carriers are making a lot of money, there is a chance for regulatory changes. To borrow a phrase from Southwest, we need the carriers to thrive, but not at the expense of making us miserable. President Biden has nominated the chief executive of the Denver International Airport to head the F.A.A. He was a former airline executive.
Southwest was warned by Mr. Buttigieg that it would be fined if it did not honor its customer service plan. Airlines can make their own service plans. New ones that are fair to both sides of the transaction should be supported by passengers.
Southwest is going to take a huge financial hit after it canceled 70% of its flights this week. The airline will have to pay for hotel rooms and rental cars for stranded passengers and crews, as well as repatriating lost bags.
Is the company still alive? It's absolutely true. Southwest has a lot of loyal customers who will forgive the company for one week of craziness, assuming the company brings operations up to industry standard. Many of the same reasons made customers forgive JetBlue. American, United, Delta and U.S. Air have all experienced temporary disasters, but none as extensive as Southwest's.
What else are you going to fly? Southwest is an important part of the transportation network. All the other carriers are needed by us. We need a regulatory framework that will make it easier for passengers to get home for the holidays.
At Inc., Bill is an editor.