Money Matters

Southwest Airlines Just Made Passengers Very Angry (and This Isn’t the First Time It’s Happened)


Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When you’re one of the biggest airlines in America, preparation is vital.

Especially when you’ve built up a reputation as one of the few airlines that actually thinks about its customers.

It seems more than a little careless, therefore, that Southwest Airlines has severely annoyed thousands of passengers by canceling more than 250 flights because of what it calls “conditions.”

Weather conditions, you might think. Well, perhaps not.

You see, passengers at Chicago’s Midway airport, where it’s been snowing for more than a week, say they were told at the weekend that the airline had run out of de-icing fluid.

So I’ve been told by TSA @SouthwestAir ran out of de-icer fluid at Midway (Chicago) in a February and cancelled all flights. They are blaming the weather. All other other airlines are flying out. #pathetic #southwestairlines

— Mermaids CanCode (@mermaidscancode) February 11, 2018

One traveler, Bradley Clifford, was offered this fascinating, conditional explanation.

Conditions. Seriously. LMAO ! It’s called poor planning on running out of de-icing. It’s not weather related.

— BradleyClifford (@BradleyClifford) February 12, 2018

Of course, it’s the condition of their bank balances that passengers are also worried about.

The problem when this sort of thing happens is that passengers end up spending their own money to, well, rent cars, book hotels or whatever else.

@SouthwestAir why have all flights out of Midway been cancelled when it’s bright and sunny out and my flight landed without problem. Customer service couldn’t help and had to spend $700 to fly out of O’Hare, where flights are moving just fine. #southwest #midway

— Mark Eisen (@Mark_S_Eisen) February 11, 2018

The problem for Southwest — well, one of them — is that this has happened before.

Just after Christmas, the airline canceled 90 flights because of, oh, de-icing issues.

I asked Southwest what had happened.

I was told that a pump on one of the glycol de-icing tanks had malfunctioned. By Monday, this was fixed.

“We will continue to work with our customers on their travel plans and apologize for any inconvenience the disruption in service has caused,” the airline told me.

The airline added that it had “actively worked to manage our glycol levels, but due to the severity of the winter weather Southwest has proactively canceled about 220 flights as of midday Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018.”

There’s a certain elegance in the way actively is juxtaposed with proactively in that quote.

Some would mutter that the airline ought to have proactively managed its glycol levels so that it wouldn’t have to actively cancel flights.

Every airline can suffer snafus. Who can forget Delta’s computer meltdowns that seem to happen with unseemly totality?

Worse, it appears that passengers may not have been given accurate information.

Sorry, @SouthwestAir , this isn’t a weather issue, this is a lack of preparation of your end. How can you blame it on the weather while other airlines are perfectly fine? So I would hope you provide more vouchers for the inconvenience and extra money spent. #southwest #midway

— Jessica Polito (@jessica_polito) February 12, 2018

And then there was this.

Hey @SouthwestAir, your counter people told me the cancelation was weather related, which is only partially true. More like a lie, really.

— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) February 12, 2018

It certainly doesn’t appear to have been, well, the whole truth. 

A big issue for passengers is that, all too often, there are few, if any, contingency plans.

Airlines like to work at maximum efficiency levels. This means that when something goes wrong, there are no more efficiencies available to fix anything.

And the ones who have to suffer the most are always the passengers.

Sounds like you owe me and other passengers some reimbursement for our unplanned hotel stays, meals, etc., for a problem on YOUR end, not caused by Mother Nature. Really a bad experience today.

— Teri Gidwitz (@terilg) February 12, 2018

Good luck with that, Teri.

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