Will Southwest Airlines’ holiday meltdown spur regulatory action?

Premium Analysis

During the Christmas/NY holiday period in late Dec-2022 Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel more than 15,000 flights. By 30-Dec-2022 Southwest had returned to normal operations, but the internal triage from the meltdown will continue for quite some time.

Initially, the cancellations were driven by adverse weather, but they snowballed - largely due to an outdated crew scheduling system that collapsed under pressure.

Southwest's historic holiday meltdown has unsurprisingly sparked an outcry for more federal oversight of the US airline industry. That's more often the case than not in these particular scenarios, and it is still unknown how much change will actually occur. But for now, pressure for change is intense, and the US DoT has pledged to investigate the operational tailspin.

If Southwest can keep a relatively stable operation for the short term, the images of millions of stranded passengers will quickly fade as consumers tend to forgive quickly - particularly if attractive ticket prices are injected into the marketplace.

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