Sunday, May 19, 2024
HomeTravelIn California, Southwest Meltdown Reveals Cracks in Key Travel Link

In California, Southwest Meltdown Reveals Cracks in Key Travel Link

Many Southwest passengers, told they might be stranded for days, scrambled to find tickets on buses, trains and other airlines. At one point this week, the only one-way ticket on short notice from Sacramento to Los Angeles was a first-class seat on Delta Air Lines for nearly $700, several times more than passengers are used to paying on that leg.
Others made a beeline for the rental car offices and opted to drive the six to nine hours it normally takes to travel from Northern to Southern California, or vice versa.
More than 2,900 Southwest flights were canceled across the country on Monday, with thousands more scrapped daily for the next three days, more than 60 percent of its schedule.
The airline said in a statement on Thursday that it had stabilized its operations and that it planned to resume its full flight schedule on Friday “with minimal disruptions.” Only a few dozen Friday flights had been canceled by midday Thursday — “good news for everyone,” Mr. Harteveldt said.
“But just because the flights are operating doesn’t mean the customers will be there,” he added. “I think this event has weakened trust among travelers and done substantial damage to Southwest’s brand.”
Nowhere has that brand become more integral than in car-dependent California, where the Texas-based airline operates more flights than in any other place in the nation, including its home state. Southwest “carried more California travelers to, from and within California than any other airline,” according to the airline’s 2021 annual report.
Inspired by California’s now-defunct Pacific Southwest Airlines, which pioneered intrastate discount air travel, Southwest started in 1967 as a way to ferry passengers between Texas cities in an era before deregulation. It has steadily grown to become one of the nation’s four largest carriers serving routes across the country. Until its current troubles, it was known mostly for its low fares, abundant flights, convivial — and occasionally musical — flight attendants and general punctuality.

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