Southwest cautious with winter schedule as 737 MAX grounding drags on
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
As the largest operator of Boeing 737 MAXes in the US, the worldwide grounding of that plane is having a particularly noticeable effect on Southwest Airlines.
In a call with investors Thursday, executives said the airline remains committed to the aircraft, but warned that it is going to take some time for operations to return to normal, even once the grounding order is lifted.
In the meantime, Southwest has published what its executives are calling a “smooth” schedule for the fourth quarter, through at least Feb. 8, when the airline currently expects to begin bringing its MAXes back online.
In response to the groundings, the airline’s leadership said it has had to make some decisions about what to prioritize in its schedule. Executives said reliability was a top concern for the airline, and its planners created a schedule they believe the airline will be able to adhere to, even as its fleet remains somewhat in flux.
The fourth quarter is a time of peaks and troughs for air travel, with busy periods around the major holidays then dramatically slower periods in between. Optimally, Southwest would usually run a variable schedule in that period. The airline originally planned to have nine different iterations of its flight times in the fourth quarter, but decided to publish a single, unified schedule for the period instead.
For passengers, that means the airline is flying fewer flights than consumer demand would dictate around the holidays, and more flights during off-peak times in that period.
The airline remains optimistic that its MAXes will start coming back online in February, though its executives cautioned it will take two to four months before the fleet is fully up to speed once the grounding order is lifted.
Southwest’s leaders also cautioned analysts on the call against reading too deeply into reports that they were exploring alternative aircraft. The airline famously flies only Boeing 737s, and while its executives acknowledged the airline always keeps its opportunities open, the business case for fleet diversification remains unclear.
The airline also continues negotiating with Boeing for compensation for its MAX-related losses.
Featured photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.