Southwest Airlines in Meltdown With Tumbling Share Prices, Cuts and Cancellations

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Southwest Airlines in Meltdown with Tumbling Share Prices, Cuts, and Cancellations

That it’s been a rough few days for U.S. air passenger carrier Southwest Airlines is far past an understatement. The airline has been hammered by a series of corporate disasters that include the cancellation of over 2000 flights since last Saturday and an exceptional staffing shortage that has contributed to the internal chaos.

Outraged customers have fed fuel to the fire by loudly complaining on social and mainstream media about hold times and flight schedule changes they didn’t want.

As an obvious result, stock prices in Southwest Airlines have dropped since Monday when on that single day they fell by 4.2%. In comparison, the price of American Airlines’ stock grew, United stayed nearly static and Delta only fell by 0.4% on the same day of trading.

In August, Southwest decided to reduce its schedule of flights as a remedy for operational struggles that have been ongoing during the summer. These had already led to dozens of flight cancellations Additionally, staff such as flight attendants, service crew, and even pilots were complaining about exhaustion from grueling work schedules.

Things came to something of a head this past weekend when the cancellation of 2000 flights was started. While operations did streamline slightly as of Monday, 363 flights were still canceled on that day alone, bringing the total of cancellations to 30% of the company’s total of scheduled flights.

The airline is still weighing further cuts as it continues to seek a way to streamline its operations.

According to Mike Van de Ven, COO of the Dallas-based Airline, in a message to staff on Sunday, Southwest remains short-staffed. He explained that “We’ll need to continue to adjust our schedules as this environment evolves”. Van de Ven was promoted to his position just last month.

The COO further elaborated in his announcement to staff that “We’ve already made significant reductions from our previously published November and December schedules, and if we think we need to do more, we will.”

The particularly deep run of staffing troubles that hit the airline this past weekend was partly and speculatively blamed on recent federal vaccine mandates for government contractors that Southwest has told it would enforce for its employees.

However, Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has called this assertion “unfounded”. He explains that sick calls during the last few days have been within the averages seen in previous months and that numbers of crew taking on new shifts have stayed even as well.

One thing that Southwest has had in common with other major U.S. air carriers is a bounce-back of demand that came with unexpected speed after the peak of the COVID pandemic in 2020. The company had urged staff to take buyouts or leave during the 2020 pandemic peak but has now been caught off guard by consumer travel demand in late 2021.

Frequent fliers who want to completely avoid the generally common and sometimes exceptional chaos of commercial air travel also have the option of booking their corporate air charters. By going for a private chartered flight with providers like Flex Air Charters, mass flight cancellations and airline meltdowns can be neatly sidestepped.

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