Lessons from the Southwest Debacle

Does anyone else remember last October when Southwest employees went on a strike against the vaccine mandates and the airline tried to blame their mass cancellations on the weather . . . even though no other airlines were affected by said weather? That was the first thing that came to mind when I was watching every Southwest flight get canceled and the customer service lines grow throughout the airport as I was returning home from my Christmas travels. 

Over Christmas weekend, many airlines had to cancel holiday flights due to the weather from winter storm Elliott. Not all airlines are created equal, however. Southwest Airlines had a striking number of cancellations compared to other airlines. While Delta canceled 9 percent of their flights, United canceled 5 percent, and American canceled less than 1 percent, Southwest Airlines canceled over 70 percent, amounting to more than 2,500 flights. 

It’s hard to ignore the disparity in numbers between the airlines, especially if you’re one of the tens of thousands of people who received the great Christmas gift of getting stranded in the airport. So, what makes Southwest so especially awful? The difference was so apparent that even the Department of Transportation is now investigating the “unacceptable rate of cancellations” to see if they were actually out of the company’s control, which I don’t think will go well for the airline considering their history of coverups. 

The Biden Administration even tweeted from the POTUS account, stating: “Thousands of flights nationwide have been canceled around the holidays. Our Administration is working to ensure airlines are held accountable. If you’ve been affected by cancellations, go to @USDOT’s dashboard to see if you’re entitled to compensation.”

Many disgruntled passengers took to social media to voice their complaints and travel horror stories about the airlines. From videos showing thousands of dumped suitcases to memes about Southwest’s less-than-helpful response to concerned travelers, there has been no lack of content inspired by the debacle. 

On the bright side, Biden’s freakish former nuclear energy official Sam Brinton had already been caught and was (probably) unable to steal any of the thousands of bags that Southwest just left lying around. 

The backlash led to the crashing of Southwest’s stock, which dipped nearly 6 percent as of Tuesday. Southwest CEO Bob Jordan attempted to avoid responsibility for the crisis, expressing surprise and shock with a statement in which he said the airline was facing “the largest-scale event that I’ve ever seen.” 

Ever since the COVID lockdowns and the corporate vaccine mandates that followed, many businesses have not been able to recover, and large corporations like Southwest are no exception. In today’s world, traveling has become more inconvenient and disorganized than ever before. Even with the mask mandates gone from the airports and flights, the effects of the pandemic still linger. 

Unlike many small businesses across the country, Southwest received massive support with over $7 billion in taxpayer aid during the pandemic. Despite the government’s help, Southwest has clearly struggled to sustain itself in post-pandemic America.  

It turns out that when you shut down the country, incentivize people not to work, then force the remaining employees to get an experimental vaccine they don’t want, things don’t just snap back to normal—who would’ve thought?

The real issue now becomes whether or not this could ever change. Without strong leadership in this country—and a belief in self-governance and responsibility—things will only get worse.

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About Tim Young

Tim Young is the media and culture critic for American Greatness.

Photo: Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images