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Southwest Airlines Vowed Not to Overbook Flights. What It's Doing Now Is Far Worse

The company's policies provide a vital lesson about how not to treat your customers if you want to hold on to them. Airlines are struggling to stay afloat, even as air travel soars. They're doing whatever they can to maximize revenue with every flight. Many are going to one of the oldest tricks in the book: Overbooking flights. It's a gamble that generally pays off. But when it doesn't, Southwest Airlines upholds its title as America's least reliable airline while also… ( More...

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vermaas 19
I have flown Southwest a lot in the past year, and had one cancelled flight but never a downgrade of an -800 to a -700. I am not sure whether the article makes it a much bigger problem than it actually is...
April Hill 13
"Airlines are struggling to stay afloat"... knew the article wasn't worth reading after the second sentence.
Julie Parnell 9
Are there really that many people out there who miss their confirmed flights on a daily basis? Like seriously? 30% of seats on average? Just think about that for a second… if each major airline flight had a 30% over-booking for no-shows, for every single flight, that is an amazing amount of irresponsible or incompetent people who book flights! Who is the problem here? Southwest for trying to cover their butt or customers who can’t seem to catch their flights on time?
Highflyer1950 5
The airlines have historic records that show which flights get no-showed the most and based on that info they overbook those particular flights, generally by the no- show percentage. I used to see certain flights that never went out empty and nobody was left behind however, I also witnessed many flights that showed full the night before and left with 30 open seats in the morning. They were typically destinations the airline served 3 or 4 flight times a day. Other issues like weather or mechanical breakdowns affect the daily schedules with a knock on effect which is why travel in the early usually is the best. And yes, if you watch any airline operation long enough you would be amazed at how many rude, inconsiderate, self centered immature travellers are present every single day. There were happier times but it seems people are just angry at everything these days.
Gary Eldridge 9
I flew a SWA flight a few weeks ago that was oversold so they asked for a couple volunteers to bump off. They offered another later flight PLUS $1500. You should have seen the crowd scramble to the gate desk upon that announcement.
MSU Sparty 8
This.”aviation writer” is truly a keyboard warrior who has it out for Southwest. She does continue to fly them. Slow news day so she resorted to click bait and very slanted writing.
Greg Mermel 3
Garbage journalism, and ill-researched.

According to Airfleets, WN has 435 active 700s, and 285 active 800s/Max8s. At 40% of the fleet, the 175-seaters can scarcely be called "standard." As a WN regular, I've seen 800s subbed in for 700s several times, but never the other way round.

As for reliability, based on Brett Snyder's recent Cranky Flier posts, they're near the top on completion percentage, though well below the other carriers on A14 arrivals. Those statistics are somewhat interdependent.
k1121j 3
I fly often and almost exclusively on American. Flying both long haul and regional flights this has not happened to me in the last 6 years. On flights that I book 11 months in advance I do often have a rescheduled departure / arrival of a few hours. Ill stick with American Airlines.
paul trubits 10
That is not the experience that most people flying AA have experienced especially if you have to take one of their "feeder" carriers. SWA is struggling, but they are still far superior to AA
Mike Boote 2
I remember a SWA gate agent in Los Angeles once told me they overbook their flights by an average of 30 seats per flight, and that was when their planes held typically 130 passengers. I thought that was very high, but I thought they must have stats to back that up. As a business traveler I avoided SWA since they have no interline agreements and it was just too easy to get stranded and I had contracts to fulfill.
Highflyer1950 5
The travelling public is the reason for overbooking flights….nobody else. People just continue to No-Show their confirmed flights and the airlines pay the price, especially when you need load factors of at least 72% to break even today. If everyone showed up, everyone would fly……..circumstances as sickness (Dr’s Certificate) accident (police report) cancelled vacation (note from Employer) gets you a full refund. Sleeping in, forgot, transportation issues…not the airlines fault. They don’t hold buses, trains or ships & airlines are no different. Now if a down gauge in equipment, the Airlines should be bending over backwards to get you where you need to go.
srobak 2
this is crap. no-show still paid for their ticket, and even with trip insurance there are very few legitimate reasons the passenger would get their money back - and it isn't the airline paying it back anyhow - it is the insurance company. the airline is making their money - regardless if you show up at the gate or not.
Scott Campbell 2
Don't care - I've used SWA as back up only, surely FA's more then half the time, the others can barely engage, before babbling in their seats about all the worse customers they've ever had. I have a million miles on United and 1/2 on Delta and I still don't want to go anywhere on an airplane outside of work. I watched an FA have a power struggle, (of something completely innocent) with a woman I was boarding with once, last flight of the night, I begged the FA to "just let her fly" she can sit by me. Well she couldn't handle it until the moment the flight was canceled because it wouldn't make it to the runway before SNA's night curfew.Then a flood of over apologizing while she and her crew lost money and time ???? To me Delta still comes out on top for service and professional FA's, United a far Second, and with the fares @ SWA almost always the same - and most with longer connections I'll take DAL & UAL all day, collect miles to the world and endure SWA for Vegas and Phoenix ... Maybe
patrick baker 2
this overbooking habit of southwest airlines and not making their agrieved customers happy and whole is going to bite them in the ass. They are close to fielding 900 airliners with numerous flights daily for each, and the numbers of dissatisifed bumpees grows as does the indifference shown to them by apparantly the too-big-for-their britches executives and their board of directors.Will it take federal regulations with big,sharp teeth to remedy this oversight? if so, do it now. Customer indifference shown by the company has grown as the company has grown, many new employees who never met Herb or the original founders of the company, and it shows, badly it shows.
Highflyer1950 8
I met Herb K. at a hotel bar in Atlanta when he was shooting a commercial for AMX. We shared a few anecdotes over drinks. He was a very interesting guy with a great love for his business and it’s employees. I’m guessing he would not be very happy right now? RIP
Duane Mader 3
If you get a chance go to the Aviation museum at Dallas Love. Quite a bit of Southwest history including the Harley that the employees gave to Herb at retirement. The love went both ways it seems back then.
patrick baker 6
i go back to the introductory days of Southwest when it took at least four flights to go from Ft Lauderdale to the west coast. Then the airline was perky, new and unusual, had peanuts to offer as snacks, truly was the cheaper alternative, and was painted funny colors.Now, as with many maturing operations, bigness and new folks not exactly versed in the culture just view the company as an employer. Herb would have exploded at the poor level of passenger treatment now commonplace. Now we hear grumblings of pilots unhappy with wages and benefits, but no hint of a strike, yet. I will not choose southwest anytime soon as Delta has treated me with welcomed respect and wisdom when they offered me, and I accepted, $700 for overbooking and voluntary bumping. Delta goes everywhere i may want to go, and I don't mind Atlanta Airport that much. I have deleted the Southwest number in my cell phone. Customer service from cheerful Delta employees is the level that Southwest is going to have to match or exceed quickly.
Ken Thompson 4
If you were flying Southwest out of Ft Lauderdale it was LONG after the “introductory days.” Like twenty five years after.
Funny, I had that exact same conversation a week or two ago. Even when it costs more, that if fine - I get more. Yesterday I had sorta the same conversation when trying to explain why I am not looking for "cheap" tickets from JFK to ATH.
Anthony Fiti 1
The only grievance that seems reasonable to me in this article is the practice of how Southwest rebooks you when they go through a major schedule change (which has happen to people I know twice in the last year).

Have a 7A flight scheduled. Southwest scrambles their schedules or drops that flight in particular and reassigns you the 530A fight. And then you have to call to get reassigned to the 10A flight and then convince them to do it without charging you more money because you didn’t choose the 530 flight. It’s a hassle. But typically it’s done at least a few weeks in advance and not a night before thing.
Alan Glover 1
Business passengers pay full freight and can deduct it from their taxes and/or their employer pays for the flight so of course their fare is 100% refundable or there is no fee for changing flights.

These passengers are the lifeblood of the industry so the airlines will continue to accommodate them and be willing to risk losing the once or twice a year vacation traveller.

Note that on the vacation charters there are very few no shows and never are they overbooked.
strickerje 1
I wouldn't consider a last-minute equipment substitution equivalent to overbooking since it wasn't done intentionally, and not to mention, other airlines have this happen too.

But I do agree that if you get bumped, you should be compensated. I find it hard to believe this isn't happening already.
Michael Reynolds 1
What's far worse on Southwest is that gullible customers like me have paid for Business Select in order to get A1-A15 in the Southwest boarding line. What those customers don't realize is that A1-A15 passengers often see scores of (Wanna Get Away?) passengers pre-boarding ahead of them.
Phil Howry -2
It's amazing to me that people still believe anything the mainstream media (i.e., CNBC) reports. The "brainwashing" intentional overbooking, as reported, by airlines is a complete fantasy.

What about airlines delaying flights to accommodate passengers held up by TSA's understaffing in airports? The mainstream media's so-called "journalist" won't report that.
srobak 2
talk about a fantasy....

airlines do not hold for TSA backlogs. not sure what gave you that impression.
Randy Marco 2
Amazing you so ignorant.
David Stark -1
Consider the source. MSN hates anything American, including businesses.
Randy Marco -4
Actually YOU are a true hater as well as an ignorant supporter of TRE45ON.
David Stark 1
I'm not sure how you came to think I am a Democrat, but I am not a member of any party.
Huck Finn -3
I think flying should be on a first come, first served basis. We go to the airport and sign up for the flight we want and hope that the carrier can haul us. If they can't then we wait for another flight on another airline. Pack people in like cattle and haul them to their destination. I'm going to apply for the job of secretary of transportation right now!!
Rick Bennette 1
It’s sort of like that now.
Tom Bruce 1
good one heck
Alan Glover 0


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