So far the only example this thread has created of a business market WN excels at is DAL-HOU. So 1 market between their two hubs means WN is a business airline. That is a unique city pair that they can take advantage of. A 25 minute flight where the lack of amenities don’t matter.
How many business passengers are they flying between New York and LA? SFO?
They are good at what they do, but they are a stubborn airline with an identity crisis. They want the premium fares the legacies get without any of the premium products. They will need to figure that one out, just like it took them years to figure out their IT infrastructure was ran off of vacuum tubes and slide rules. They won’t ever change or think of the future until the future has left them behind. I wish them luck, but they have needed an attitude adjustment for about 20 years now. Running off the glory days of the company only can take them so far. They need to think for the future instead of holding on to the past.
BINGO!!!!! and we have a winner, best way to describe Southwest Airlines in 2021!!!!
I second BMWdrvr75! This is the perfect way to describe WN right now. They dusted off their post 9/11 and post ‘08 playbook and put it to work but didn’t appreciate the major differences. Before the MAX was grounded WN already had a fleet shortage so when the MAX came back they were still at a disadvantage. Then you throw in all the buyouts, retraining, and new hiring/training that needs to be done and you have a completely different ballgame. Stubborn WN said “since everyone LUVs us so much we’re going into COS, we’re going into MIA, we’re going into BZN, etc… That worked fine until they started waking up the rest of their network, then BOOM, right back to 2019 when they didn’t have enough planes to operate their planned schedule after the classics were retired.
Look at WNs delays and cancellations at DEN vs. UA or the same thing at ORD/MDW. It’s staggering, even when you add the express carriers in. Yet their PR spin machine keeps telling travelers “WEATHER, WEATHER, WEATHER” like we’re not smart enough to look at a departure board (like I did at DEN this week) and see that the “Cancelled” and “Delayed” are noticeably connected to WN flights and not so much the competition. AA is being up front with their customers about their over scheduling and even though they’re not my favorite, I appreciate that. I don’t know how this situation improves because Gary said they won’t have enough aircraft to operate their schedule into 2023.
Which brings up the next point. WN has been good for SOME business travel up to April of 2020. You have to go between Dallas and Houston frequently, that’s your airline. You need to fly between the LA basin and the Bay Area frequently, that’s your airline. Chicago and NYC, Dallas, or Houston, eeeh, maybe. NYC and the LA basin, the Bay Area or Seattle, no way. If they don’t have enough aircraft to operate they’re current schedule, how will they expand into these business heavy markets without discontinuing flying that is core to their current business model?
Then there’s the current business model. Look, I get all of you that say “why should Southwest do anything different when they’ve been successful all these years?” Well, here’s the thing, times change, and the businesses that survive are the ones that adapt. Southwest ain’t doing so good at adapting right now. When I was in business school 2001-04 one of my Management profs said “everybody loves Southwest because they run on time and they don’t lose your luggage.” I would also add no change fees and go forward a few years and I’d add “bags fly free.”Well, that’s certainly not the case right now. First, the change fee playing field has been leveled. Second, they are an operational nightmare. They’ve bit off more than they can chew and consequently, the things that made them pleasant to fly have gone out the window. The fact that they didn’t offer power ports or an extra legroom economy section to move up to didn’t matter as much when they were “old reliable.”
Which brings up the final point. WN’s hard and soft products were built around serving that people just want reliable transportation at a good VALUE. Not necessarily cheap but a good value. They excelled at pleasing those customers which included a fair amount of short and medium haul domestic business customers. Power ports and extra legroom don’t matter as much on sub 2 hour flights. I generally want the option to ride in a little more comfort but I would use WN to fly AMA-LAS because for an hour and 50 mins, a gussied up evolve 73G was ok. However, on longer flights, it starts to become an issue. The longest WN flights I’ve taken are DAL-BOS and RDU-LAS. On those longer flights, the lack of amenities shows. No power to recharge my devices (meaning I have to remember to carry a power bank and keep it charged) no option to upgrade to more legroom (you can sometimes alleviate this buy buying early bird or BE but that doesn’t mean you’ll be one of the first 11 and if it’s a through flight, that goes out the window as passengers continuing will have moved up to those few seats available on a WN aircraft). WN also hasn’t been themselves when it comes to onboard service in the pandemic era. UA still offered me their full array of sealed nonalcoholic beverages of choice, and in November brought the coffee back while WN was still “just water.” Then they added Coke, Diet Coke, and 7up and came up with a goofy ordering system that resulted in FAs and passengers slipping off their masks to communicate much more so that any of the 25 UA flights I took in that same period. A few weeks ago, several other lawyers here in Amarillo and I were at a happy hour and the subject of Southwest came up. ALL of us agreed that they’re just not a pleasant travel experience for flights over about 1 1/2 - 2 hours and they don’t provide a good product that allows productivity on a longer trip or a trip with a connection.
Let me be clear, I am not saying that WN is going out of business any time soon. I’m not saying that they won’t continue to carry more domestic passengers than any of the 3 legacies. I’m just saying that there have been MANY companies at the top of their game that have failed to adapt and been eclipsed by someone else. Southwest has the attitude that “this is what we do, take it or leave it.” Again, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to go broke, but it does mean, that there will be travelers on some routes that they want to expand into that will say “no thanks.” If I’m on a longer business trip, the lounge to work in, the power ports to keep my devices up and running, and the extra room do make a difference. It compounds when the airline isn’t reliable and I’m stuck at the airport or on the tarmac longer.