Southwest’s New Normal: Life Without The 737 MAX

by Shelli

Whether you’re a once-in-a-while Southwest flyer, or a Southwest loyalist, you’ve likely noticed that in the past few months the prices for flying on Southwest Airlines have increased. Increased a lot! I’ve noticed that flight prices are higher than I’ve seen them in years.

Since I’m the Southwest Airlines aficionado in my family, almost daily, I’m getting questions from family and friends about why this is happening. My friends have a vague idea that the price increase is somehow related to the 737MAX grounding. Here’s an article I came across that helps explain how the 737 MAX grounding affects prices.

Wade Goodwyn’s story on National Public Radio looks behind the scenes in Dallas at the Southwest Airlines Network Operations Center, and how the team there has had to punt without the Air Max.

Southwest Has 35 Fewer Planes 

Southwest is the largest domestic carrier in the U.S., with 4,000 flights a day. Southwest, according to Goodwyn, is the country’s most affected carrier because of relying entirely on 737s –- and now they have 35 fewer airplanes in their fleet.

Another differentiating factor between Southwest and other U.S. carriers is that because of the way Southwest routes are set up, with point-to-point flights, the 35 MAXes out of commission means that 35,000 potential passengers won’t be flying on any given day.

That’s a lot of potential LUV lost.

Thankfully, the airline has been able to shift flights around and adjust capacity so there’s a much smaller disruption overall. However, that means fewer seats to sell and at higher prices.

“Fewer seats means less revenue even though fewer seats also translates into those seat prices going up. Prices are set by supply and demand, but the grounding is still a net negative. We wish it had not happened.” – Southwest Executive Vice President Andrew Watterson

Southwest is so large that the MAXes comprise just 6% of their entire fleet, but the financial impact has still been negative (a $200 million loss was reported for the first quarter of 2019).

The Cost To Southwest Flyers

The cost to Southwest is one thing, but the cost to Southwest flyers is also a painful reality. Anecdotally, prices are up. My cousin noticed that from his Southwest hub, both Delta and United flights cost less overall. This, he’s never seen before. At this point, federal regulators have no return date for when the 737MAX will fly again.

We can only hope we’ll be feeling our usual LUV for Southwest as soon as possible!

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Southwest’s New Normal: Life Without The 737 MAX – Bubmag July 9, 2019 - 3:12 am

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