The Southwest Meltdown Is Over.
But It’s Set In Motion The 2023 Airline Jihad
The circus begins.
The headline pretty much validates what we predicted a couple weeks ago:
Between the political appointees at the top of the DOT and the various committee heads in Congress, they just can’t pass up a chance for some high profile soapboxing.
The premise, however, is trendy and panders to the life forms in the consumerist world that aren’t above claiming all sorts of evil on the part of airlines, like the ones recently claiming that USA airline seats have been getting narrower. Which is a lie.
Congress Will Milk This For All It’s Worth. The premise of the above headline, if it is to be taken seriously, is that WN knew weeks in advance that the country would be hit just before Christmas with some of the worst weather in decades, and then irresponsibly ignored it all.
This is stupid leadership at the DOT, and is shameful in that it will accomplish nothing.
This does not minimize the horrid and tragic human costs of the Southwest meltdown. Millions of people – not just travelers, but entire families at home expecting loved ones to arrive – went through a situation not seen before. (At least until a few days later when the FAA’s bailing-wire systems gave us another first-seen experience, shutting the entire nation down, if only for a couple hours.)
It’s clear that Southwest recognizes this and is doing all it can to rectify the damage. But congress, the honchos at the DOT, and some in the consumerist side of the media want to milk this for all it’s politically worth.
Get Tuned In For Some Oscar-Winning Performances. So, watch for the hearings on C-SPAN in the next few months, where crocodile-indignant politicians will open with gushing outrage. Then the first panels will consist of carefully-selected consumers who were affected, recounting the hardships they went through.
This naturally will accomplish nothing constructive, and will shamefully use these folks as political fodder, but it will set the stage and somehow validate the next panel of witnesses.
That will be airline executives, probably from across the industry, carefully positioned for the hearing chairman to initiate the congressional version of the last five minutes of Bonnie & Clyde getting whacked in the ’35 Ford. Except without live ammunition, probably.
The alpha and the omega of the Black Holiday was a computer system at one airline that couldn’t handle the demands of a major weather event. It was not and is not a generic situation in airline operations across the industry. This is not an excuse for Southwest. But it is the reality, and one that is being addressed so that there won’t be a re-occurrence.
Unfortunately, that won’t be the approach inside the Beltway.
Message To Airlines: This Is Not A Drill. This has set in motion a jihad regarding airline service. This means that it’s up to the airline industry to now take stock of every aspect of their service delivery and ability to quickly remediate or avoid service failures.
There are a number of areas where the industry is vulnerable. We covered them a couple of months ago in a special Aviation Unscripted video. The #1 recommendation was for airlines to do a forensic review of all of the processes the customer goes through and literally do war games on how they can turn into confrontational situations, and have specific training on how to de-escalate them.
Airports: You Have A Dog In This Fight. Airlines need to get consumers on their side. It’s also important for airports to get in and take a stand. Remember, a lot of the stuff these politicians are suggesting will affect the viability of air service across the nation. Like, the bozos demanding all seats be 20 inches wide, which has never been the case.
Great. That will make 737s and A320 cabins go to 5-across, instead of six. Give a thought about the fallout of losing 25-35 seats per flight, guys. And that is with no defined or proven increase in health or safety.
ACI & AAAE: don’t play politics with this one.
And let us know your thoughts.