56 Empty Flights from Southwest This Past Monday Alone

by Sara Williams

This past Monday, March 30th, 2020, Southwest Airlines flew 56 flights with zero passengers according to an internal memo.

“A Southwest spokesperson said the company does not confirm information that may have been shared internally.” – Dallas Business Journal

In this unprecedented time, we are seeing repercussions hit the travel industry like never before. Predictably, airlines would have to fly some empty flights in order to meet the demand of holding landing slots and moving planes to strategic locations. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the need for 56 empty flights in one day though.

Southwest empty flights

Why Fly 56 Empty Flights?

Slashing capacity, it seems, is not enough; several carriers are flying more empty flights than they could have imagined. So why are they still operating? Chief Operating Officer, Mike Van de Ven, stated three reasons. The first reason for carrying on despite flying so many empty flights is that air travel has been deemed “essential,” by the government and several benefits could go along with that status. The second is that government aid offered implies a continuation of service. If they were to stop flying, even empty flights, they would forfeit government aid that will hopefully be available in the near future. The last reason he gave is certainly something that hasn’t had to be a consideration many times in the history of an airline; the huge logistical and monetary challenges of restarting an airline if it should stop all service.

What Does The Future Hold

As the demand for travel diminishes and shelter-in-place orders continue to be put into place by more and more cities the travel industry will see more extreme measures to try to stay afloat and survive until travel can resume as it once was.

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2 comments

Rod Aftuck April 4, 2020 - 10:31 am

One thing the airlines should also consider is if there are only 10-20 or whatever small number of passengers on a flight do they need four flight attendants on an empty flight. Whatever the rule of thumb is say 1 FA for 50 passengers that could be a major savings in labor, cost of layover hotels per diem etc.

Reply
Miles Jackson April 5, 2020 - 3:58 am

@Rod –
It is often the case that the airline would still carry that many flight attendants onward to catch their connecting flights and next assignments. Thanks for your comments and observation.

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