In an article about Southwest Airlines, a Southwest plane can be seen through the window of an airport filled with. lost luggage.

Flight Disaster: What’s Going On With Southwest Airlines?

The company has seen some issues this past holiday season, what caused such an uproar among their passengers?
February 2, 2023
8 mins read

Thousands of people funnel into a single line that twists and turns throughout the check-in area of the airport as they wait to speak with a representative of Southwest Airlines. The yellow, red and blue heart hangs above their heads as customers continuously scream and shout for a refund; their words are anything but kind. The travelers are tired, bags under their eyes, uncertain as to where their luggage could possibly be. Some people are holed up at the nearest hotel in hopes of getting on the next flight, while others seek refuge on the uncomfortable leather chairs the gates have to offer. These blue-painted planes are grounded as a snowstorm rages outside, while competing airlines with different passengers leave the ground and fly into the unfriendly sky. Southwest passengers can’t help but be consumed by an overwhelming sense of jealousy, their holidays have been crushed because of a simple storm. What could possibly be going wrong for this airline?

One of the root causes for these cancellations was the brutal snowstorm that loomed over the United States, bringing a sudden dip in temperature and plenty of snow. While planes are capable of flying in severely cold temperatures, ice is still the downfall of aviation. During the winter season in areas that receive snow and ice, planes must be sprayed down so that their exteriors remain warm during flight. Ice can also be dangerous for runways at airports since ice means no traction for planes. In 2005, Southwest Airlines flight 1248 landed at the Chicago Midway airport and drove through the wall onto the local street, ultimately killing a little boy. This sort of incident can be avoided by canceling flights rather than taking the risk of endangering passengers and those nearby. Nevertheless, this isn’t a feasible solution during the holidays, as many people fly during these times. Nevertheless, this isn’t the only cause for Southwest’s disaster this holiday season.

Most major airlines have a local hub where most of their passengers, pilots and crew filter through in order to get from one destination to another. This network is referred to as the hub-and-spoke: the hubs are central airports and the spokes are the routes planes take from these central airports. Southwest Airlines does not use this network, but rather an older system that focuses on the destination rather than airline employees or passengers. A point-to-point system has no central hub, instead rotating which major cities to fly out of for months at a time. This can be an issue when planes, pilots and crew members are needed around the US since it becomes difficult for airlines to move these people and objects around. This is precisely what happened to Southwest Airlines; they needed planes in one city and crew in another. A shortage of pilots only spelled disaster. But since the mass cancellation, the airline now needs to play a game of catch-up.

Southwest Airlines continued to cancel flights to make up for the loss in revenue due to people demanding reimbursement for their previous flight cancellations. The continuous cancellations well after the winter storm raised suspicion for the US federal government, prompting them to investigate the airline. On Twitter, the United States Department of Transportation told its followers that “USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.” Many would argue that the cancellations were implemented in order to help those stranded at airports, unable to find a way home or to their intended destination.

Not only is the government bashing Southwest, but the company now faces a lawsuit from a passenger who has not been reimbursed for hotels, meals or rental cars, nor refunded for the lost flights. Within Southwest Airlines’ contract, the company policy states that passengers have the right to these things, yet Southwest is not upholding their end of the bargain. Other flyers have since stepped forward, claiming that Southwest has done nothing to reimburse or refund a failed trip. The airline then responded by gifting travelers twenty five thousand Frequent Flyer points to offer their condolences and apologize for such a terrible experience. These points are estimated to be worth only three hundred dollars, coming off as a cheap tactic from the company so that they don’t have to give back the money that’s rightfully due. It’s estimated that Southwest will lose up to five million dollars for reimbursements alone.

Today, many are waiting for their bags to return after the disaster Southwest Airlines dragged its flyers through. People have been calling customer service with questions about their bags only to be told that they aren’t sure where their bags could be. When I flew back home after the holidays, the baggage claim was a sea of colorful unclaimed bags that made it to the final destination, unlike their respective owners. My flight was on Southwest Airlines, and because of the lack of help, my checked bag was full of things I was willing to lose whereas my carry-on held the more important things. Flying during the holidays can be a stressful time when a piece of your luggage winds up missing.

Frequent flyers and simple travelers are beyond disappointed with Southwest Airlines, as they’ve experienced one disaster after another. The weather was only the beginning of a massive downfall for the airline, as they failed to recover even after the storm passed. This left passengers stranded and unable to reach their final destinations. As a result, they booked alternative flights with other airlines in order to get home. But even then, their bags went missing, causing a further uproar for these flyers. While the government continues its investigation, other passengers have taken matters into their own hands and are currently suing the company altogether for a failed refund, and rightfully so! It leaves a tainted mark on Southwest Airlines’ previously remarkable customer service, as many flyers may never choose to fly with them again. One can only hope that this airline will learn from its horrendous mistakes moving forward.

Kirsten Kalebich, Arizona State University

Writer Profile

Kirsten Kalebich

Arizona State University
Major in English, Minor in Business

A dreamer who wants to become an author or editor. In her spare time, she writes countless stories on her phone and reads an insane amount of fiction.

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