Southwest cautious with winter schedule as 737 MAX grounding drags on

Oct 24, 2019

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.

Related: Snapshot: A Look at Southwest Airlines by the Numbers

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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.