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What Caused the Chaos at Southwest

Five days after severe winter weather wreaked havoc on holiday air travel across the United States, most major carriers are back up and running. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines each canceled fewer than 40 flights on Wednesday, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. Delta had the fewest with only 15 cancellations.
At Southwest, it was a very different story.
More than 2,500 flights, or 62 percent of its planned flights on Wednesday, had been canceled, according to FlightAware. And Southwest said in a statement on Wednesday that it planned to fly one third of its scheduled flights for the next several days as it tries to return to normal operations, meaning it would continue to cancel close to 2,500 flights a day. Some passengers, unable to rebook Southwest flights, rented cars or spent hundreds of dollars to buy tickets on other airlines.
So what caused the meltdown?
The “point-to-point” model failed
Southwest uses a “point-to-point” route model that often lets passengers fly directly from smaller cities and regions without having to stop at a central hub like Denver or New York. Point-to-point flights cut travel times by eliminating the intermediate stop — typically a big advantage for travelers who are not flying from major metro areas.
Other large carriers like United and American rely on a “hub-and-spoke” model in which planes typically fly from smaller cities to a hub airport where passengers change planes.

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