Southwest cuts fall flight schedule to avoid another round of cancellation woes

Aug 28, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 1, 2021

Southwest Airlines is reducing its fall flight schedule in an attempt to get ahead of the cancellations and delays that plagued the airline over the summer, the airline confirmed.

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The Dallas-based airline known for its cheaper than competitors “Wanna Get Away” fares, and for deals for flights primarily across the U.S., has decreased its flight schedule for remaining flights September, with cuts expected to continue through December, the AP first reported.

“We published adjustments last week to the Southwest Airlines flight schedule from September 7 through November 5, 2021, to bring a better experience for our customers and to put our employees in the best position to serve them,” an airline spokesperson said via email. “We plan to take this same approach and make adjustments to our schedule for the remainder of the year, striving to align our resources, working to hire more people, and prepare for continual challenges in an uncertain environment.”

The airline plans to eliminate 27 flights per day in September and 162 per day in October. The cuts are minimal compared to its overall flight schedule (less than 1% for September and under 5% for October through Nov. 5), but similar cuts are expected in November and December excluding holidays.

“We intend adjustments in the coming weeks to our November and December flight schedules, protecting plans for travel booked around the holidays,” they said.

The cuts are reflective of the airline’s struggle to manage canceled flights over the summer, which the airline attributed to inclement weather, however it’s no secret that airlines have also been struggling with labor shortages.

“These schedule adjustments are on top of reductions we already published to calibrate our operation for normal post-summer flying patterns, for fluctuating travel demand in the pandemic, and for recent impacts to our business as cases of the delta variant of COVID-19 rise,” said the airline. “The near-term schedule changes announced today aimed to adapt our staffing model in this current environment, as we aggressively hire for planned growth to our route network once the operating environment normalizes and depending on the rebound of travel demand.”

“To any Southwest Customer whose journey with us fell short of their expectation this summer, we offer our sincerest apologies. We’re confident these adjustments will create a more reliable travel experience,” Southwest Airlines Chairman & CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement. “I am grateful for the Warrior Spirit of our Southwest Employees who welcomed millions of summer travelers back to air travel with their legendary Hospitality. As our business recovery continues, we’re 100 percent dedicated to improving the quality of your work day and setting you up for success.”

SWA also said on Thursday that they are approaching hiring “aggressively,” following reports that the airline is unlikely to make a profit in Q3 due to decreased demand from the delta variant, the AP reported.

The cuts appear to heed an earlier warning this month by the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA), who said the airline’s “aggressive lack of planning” regarding flight operations has only been further exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Given these anticipated challenges, your SRC is, once again, concerned that the current network schedule isn’t manageable,” SWAPA said in a press statement on Aug. 12. “If Flight Ops fails to invest significantly in the day-of operational recovery resources before we reach the holiday travel season, Pilots and customers alike are likely to continue having to endure days of delays, cancellations, misconnects, and weather disruptions.”

Cancellations among Southwest flights seem to be an ongoing issue. TPG reported on massive Southwest cancellations on June 26, when SWA canceled hundreds of flights and delayed well over 1,000 more due to weather, equivalent to 45% of its schedule on Friday, June 25.

Read more: Southwest cancels or delays over 1,000 flights so far this weekend, with more expected

Featured image of travelers checking in for a Southwest Airlines flight at Orlando International Airport in July 2021 by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images




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