What’s behind Southwest Airlines’s nightmare meltdown?

It's not just the weather.

Not everyone got a white Christmas this year, but pretty much everyone did get a cold one. The Arctic chill that swept across the country left thousands without power, and (according to Southwest Airlines) was responsible for thousands of canceled flights as well.

The airline canceled over 2,900 flights on Monday alone, as well as 2,500 for Tuesday and many well into Wednesday too. That’s between 60% to 70% of its overall daily flight schedules. But while Southwest blamed the weather for the meltdown, other airlines did not experience similar issues.

In fact, 50% of all canceled flights on Monday were on Southwest. Delta canceled a mere 262 flights in comparison, followed by United with 133 and then American with only 12 (though they did have nearly 800 delays). Many are calling the implosion at Southwest one of the biggest travel debacles in history, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

The company’s hotline reportedly had a five hour plus wait, which mirrored times customers waited in line to speak to a gate agent as well.

Southwest is blaming the weather for the situation. But that can’t explain it all, given that other airlines experienced nowhere near the same amount of problems. What’s more, it conveniently seems meant to get the airline out of its obligations to consumers. Most airlines provide hotel accommodations and other travel vouchers for delays—except for when they’re caused by weather or other “acts of God.” 

Using this excuse may help Southwest get out of paying for the needs of the people it is stranding across the country. (Although they’re saying you can submit expenses to them and they’ll honor “reasonable requests.”) And since few can even get through to a representative for assistance, their only real option is to bite the bullet and cough up a pretty penny to book last-minute on another airline.

But while the company seems to be less than forthcoming on its internal problems, a Reddit thread filled with (self-identified) staff of the airline is spilling the tea. In part, they explained the collapse as due to outdated technological issues the company had neglected.

One anonymous employee wrote on Reddit: “This shitstorm is because the crew scheduling software went belly up and it almost all has to be unraveled over the phone with crew members calling scheduling. If we had better technology which eliminated the need for phone calls, this would have been fixed by now.”

And a union representing their flight attendants has also spoken out while pointing to the real cause of the disruption, “years of neglect to technological improvements that would fix operational issues.”

In response to the disaster, the Department of Transportation announced it will launch an investigation into the matter.

It’s important to mention here that a free market hasn’t been seen in the airline industry in decades. Rather, we consistently bail them out with taxpayer dollars, regulate the industry to the point it’s almost impossible for new competition to spring up, and our government sets up policies that typically favor the companies over the consumers. Most airlines should have been allowed to fail a long time ago.

Given the current conditions, it is worth demanding answers on behalf of taxpayers. If they’re going to give our tax dollars to these companies we shouldn’t be left with the bill when they screw up.

We need a free market on the ground and in the skies. But in the meantime, we need accountability and reparations when a government-backed company messes up at this scale.

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Hannah Cox
Hannah Coxhttp://based-politics.com
Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer and co-founder of BASEDPolitics. She's also the host of the BASEDPolitics podcast and an experienced political activist.


  1. Geez, so what did Southwest do with the 3.3 billion, from the 7 billion earmarked to them? Pay their executives fat bonus’s?
    What a farce. Glad I no longer fly period. Its not worth the aggravation with the TSA shakedown and the useless security measures that make it all a hassle to interact with. And now this.

  2. The airlines were deregulated decades ago. Why dont you do your homework, and do some research on the history of the airline industry. As a little excersise, count the number of airlines that went out of business, were merged with others, went into bankruptcy multiple times, etc, etc. Then see if you can come up with a good estimate of the number of employees that were fired, laid off, furloughed, put on long-term leave, etc, due to market conditions, gov interferance, catastrophic disasters(9-11) etc. Hint: will number in the hundreds of thousands if you go all the way back. My point, the airline industry has an extremely rocky history whether its been regulated or unregulated. It is an extremely capital intense business that has historically been very difficult to earn consistant profits over time. This opinion coming from a retired Delta Airline pilot who flew for Delta for 33 years. I can affirm that management has made their share of mistakes and strategic errors over the years, but just flippantly acting like the free market will fix these problems is naive. Btw, im a political conservative who does believe in the free market in principle, but sometimes reality requires a tweaking of the ideals. Im noticing from your pic that you look quite young. Recommend you acquire a little more experience, knowledge, and wisdom before you proclaim simplistic solutions.

  3. Hmmm? Wouldn’t the same reasoning for the DOT investigating Southwest apply to the FCC investigating network news and social media viewpoint censorship?


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