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WHY CAN'T I MAKE RESERVATIONS FURTHER IN ADVANCE?

Employee
Employee
Schedule Planning Department members are used to being asked questions.  Usually, it's "What's the next new city?"  or "When are we going to add nonstop service from X to Y?"  Of course, we can't give direct answers, as we have to protect the confidentiality of our growth plans.  In fact, we've learned to tap dance our way around those types of questions better than the cast of 42nd Street.   However, one question we do get asked repeatedly is why Southwest doesn't allow Customers to make reservations further in advance.  I can easily (and happily) de-mystify that one!  It really boils down to one, very simple reason:  we don't like to confirm a reservation to a Customer, and then have to change their schedule.    As all of us know, the farther you look out into the future, the harder it is to make accurate predictions.  TV Weathermen have trouble telling us what it's going to be like outside tomorrow much less ten or eleven months from now.  Because the airline industry is as chaotic as the weather and in a constant state of flux, we can only predict with a high degree of certainty what our Corporate, and our Customers', schedule needs will be up to roughly six months in advance.  Therefore, we publish our schedule and allow bookings only up to about 180 days in advance--six months of inventory, if you will.  After we publish, we let the clock tick down, day by day, until we have about 120 days worth of inventory left to sell, at which point we publish another "block" of schedules and push the inventory back up to about 180 days.  On rare occasion (and we're in one now) the inventory can drop as low as 90 days, and on even rarer occasions we'll have more than 180 days available--but the general goal is to keep between 120 to 180 days of inventory for sale.  Outside of that six-month timeframe, we're free to make whatever schedule changes we need to in order to remain competitive, maintain operational excellence, and give our Customers the Freedom to Fly all over America.   If we were to allow bookings as much as a year in advance--in effect, before our plans were solid--we would have to make changes to many, if not most, of those longrange reservations.  Nobody likes that outcome.  For one thing, it's expensive to spend the time and resources to notify Customers whose itineraries have changed.  Second, and worse yet, depending on what we changed in the schedule, we couldn't always rebook changed reservations onto replacement itineraries at similar times.   Not that we haven't thought about this issue, many times, at great length.  We've repeatedly examined the benefit of extending the booking "window," and each time we've found that in general, very, very few Customers would take advantage of booking flights ten or eleven months from today.  So by allowing bookings further in advance than we now do, we'd be setting up a potentially very disruptive chain of events that really would not provide a significant benefit for either our Customers or our Company.   We think our existing policy strikes a great balance between offering Customers the ability to confirm their travels far enough ahead of time to suit most of their needs, and allowing Southwest to keep our costs low and our flexibility high to respond to changes in the marketplace.  So remember the "120/180 rule" for future bookings on Southwest.  We will usually make up to 180 days of inventory available for sale, then allow that booking window to tick down to 120 days-then "recharge" the booking window by putting another 60 days or so of salable inventory out there, taking the total days available back up to around 180.  But if you keep this general rule in mind, it'll provide a good yardstick to see where Southwest stands in with respect to the booking window.   Hopefully this will help "de-mystify" planning future travel on Southwest.  Keep the questions, and the comments, coming!  And feel free to ask me or anyone in the Schedule Planning Department what the next new markets are going to be.  We can't tell you....but we do a mean soft-shoe.  
262 Comments
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Bill, I understand where you guys are coming from, and for myself, your reasonings make sense, but for many of the less frequent WN (erm, I mean SWA 😉 ) travelers I know, many of them hate having to guess when a new schedule will come out. Sadly, many of them lose patience during a time like this when the schedule is so short because they are tired of 'looking for booking' everyday (I do it, I'll admit, I've got some summer travel that if I don't book soon I'm not going to be able to book). Have you guys ever considered releasing new schedules on a set basis (like the first day of every fiscal quarter?) or sending advances notice to RR Update subscribers so the loyalist customers know when they can get the lowest fares? I know you DING! and send out an email after the fact, but by then the lowest fares are usually sold out...
New Arrival
Anyone wanting a non-official guess about schedule extension can try these two links: http://flyertalk.com/forum/showpost.php?p=3943308&postcount=20 and http://flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=527240 (and skip to the most recent post). Bill, I have one other question. Most schedule extensions happen shortly after 10 AM Central Time on Thursdays. What's magic about Thursday morning?
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Maybe i need to re-read that post. I am confused?? How does this save you money? I would think that the more bookings you have the more money you would have in advance. The other airlines, while barely profitable allow you to book several months in advance. Also, it is true that when you offer only a limited amount of seats, all of the low fares get sold out in a matter of minutes. Perhaps you can give me more insight. Also, i want to know... Why is it more expensive to fly from SAN-ABQ, then SAN-BWI? BWI is a bigger airport, but i just do not get it?? Francisco
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It is sometimes guess work--predicting how much business you will have a few months in advance. I worked in the hotel business and noticed the same thing. I naturally wonder what it costs to schedule further ahead than five months or so. Is there some pressing reason for making a reservation further in advance?
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Bill, I understand what SW is doing and I really appreciate you letting us know how it works, but we are already past the 120 days what is the hold up? It is really frustrating when you are trying to make plans and cannot make reservations. It is to the point that I may have to use another airline.
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This major issue I have is that I've been trying to book tickets since early December as a gift for my husband. The intention is to fly to Houston for his birthday. We would go May 12 - 17. So I've been waiting well over a month for the booking dates to expand a WEEK.... and in that time I have missed out on several deals. At one point I would have been able to get the round trip for roughly $370.00 now it's up to over $400. (i'm figuring this by seeing what it would be to book a week earlier.) So as a couple who isn't swimming in the cash this is getting to be a tidge frustrating. It's either to the point where we go to another airline, greyhound, drive, or don't go at all.
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Thank you so much for explaining how you open new inventory dates. The 120/180 days is a good rule of thumb. Unfortunately the inventory dates have dropped well below your rule right now and a lot of customers are getting impatient. I love flying Southwest so I guess I'll just keep waiting while you tap dance around opening up the next inventory block.
Employee
Employee
Greetings! Okay....I'm going to try and respond to almost ALL of the replies we get on this thread. So, in order: Matthew, We don't mean to keep folks guessing (well....all except our competitors, of course). That was the purpose of my blog post. The problem, and the problem with releasing schedules on specific dates, is that the anticipated "schedule's ready!" dates keep changing. We don't want to promise a date that we have to change later, just as we don't want to promise a schedule that we can't reasonably expect to deliver. And, according to our Technology folks, as of right now we don't send an immediate DING! telling folks that the booking window has increased, nor do we send one to our Rapid Rewards Customers. However, both are good ideas, and I'll run them up the flagpole for you. nsx-- 10 a.m. on Thursdays has to do with the way we distribute schedules. We typically send on a Friday, it "percolates" through the various distribution venues by Monday or Tuesday, then we give everyone until Thursday to get everything correctly loaded before we pull the trigger. It's certainly not set in stone--we've opened on other days of the week. The time of day isn't in concrete, either, but 10:00 a.m. Central time is about as early as we can assume the entire continental United States is awake and open for business. And by the way--thanks for the link! I'm a flyertalk.com member as well. francisco: What saves us money is by **not** having to change people's schedules that have already booked. If we published further out, the chances are significantly greater that we'd have to make changes to their itineraries, then contact the Customers, and look for alternative itineraries--with no guarantees that there would BE alternative itineraries. Dealing with any or all of those itineraries, spread across thousands of Customers that could be impacted by even a slight schedule change, is VERY expensive. We'd rather focus our attention on keeping costs low. As for SAN-ABQ vs. SAN-BWI fares: I'm not in the Pricing and Revenue Management group, but what you're likely seeing is the difference between trying to fly on a peak day SAN-ABQ vs. an off-peak day SAN-BWI--but without specifics, I wouldn't be able to comment for certain. Chris: The only pressing reason for booking waaaay in advance is so folks will be able to know exactly what they've got, what they're paying, and what they can expect. It's because we want to get all three correct, from the get-go, that we don't offer advance bookings any further out than we do! Joe: In my post I said we occasionally will dip below 120 days down to as low as 90, and that we're in one of those periods now. The reason why is very technical and would completely bore everyone out there into watching "Oprah!" reruns, but I'll condense it to just say that the schedule's just not done yet. However, unlike previous early summer schedule releases, this one will go all the way out past the middle of August. (Anyone....does that redeem us? Anyone? Bueller?) Erica, PLEASE bear with us. To quote the old song from "West Side Story" -- Something' s coming, something good If I can wait Something's coming, I don't know what it is but it is gonna be great... You'll have a GREAT time in Space City! And Angie, Refer to my reply to Joe above....I know we're below 120, it happens on rare occasion....but we'd rather have a firm plan to offer our Customers than a "hmmm, that looks right" guess and then have to change things later. Please bear with us!!!!! Okay--that's all for now. Further replies later tonight. Thanks for caring, guys--I know some of you are frustrated, but I (1) deeply appreciate your wanting to book future travel on Southwest, and (2) and thrilled you're reading the blog! Bill
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Bill Says, "weÃ
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Bill, Thank you for addressing the EXACT topic my Dad emailed me about, only TWO days ago. ;-) Glad my answer was close to, although not as complete, as yours. Will P.S. BTW, did you say we're currently in one of those 'less than 120 periods' right now?? j/k
Employee
Employee
Jim, Actually, after I've tried to type this response a couple of times, it's not all that hard to explain, after all. The math gets REALLY murky, but the reason is this: typically, our summer schedule runs from early June through early September. However, we've realized that winds aloft and weather patterns mean that a much better statistical fit would be for the summer schedule to run from May through late August. However, our schedule development timeline didn't allow for us to "speed up" the development of the summer schedule block--so instead of opening up June - September in early February, we'll open mid-May through mid-August in early February. The good news is that we shouldn't make you good folks suffer through this kind of "inventory deficit" next year! Will, Great minds think alike, sir! Glad we were (as usual) on the same page. Two things for you: one, please email me--the last 2 emails I replied to you bounced back to me. And second: please pass on my EXTREME congrats to Jason (who, everyone, will soon become a Southwest Airlines pilot!). Bill
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There is probably going to be some new city pairs. It takes time to add all of these. They are going to have 300 flights out of mdw. Phx to vegas will go to every half hour and I'll get 3 n/s to phx instead of two. Joe Friedmann
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There's more to this that you think. I suspect that Southwest fares in 2007 are going way up. Why? Because airline fuel futures that were at really low $$ prices are expired/expiring in 2007. One way the airline can preoccupy travelers is to throw a new reservation scheduling system down. For those of us that are into analysis, we are too busy trying to get the 3 month game down.. and it'll take our focus off the fact that airfares are way up compared to pre 2006. If you travel for business...and you take the same time/date routine...over time when you book things way in advance you get to know what "your" fare is. You'd see a fuel increase passed onto customers...really easy to see it. With the 'mad scramble' even at 89 days, 88 days, the inventory is going to fill much faster and you'll attribute the higher fares to the evaporating inventory and not necessarily to higher fuel costs.
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Not making any sense to me. I need a breakdown. Southwest flies more people then anyother airline. People like to plan in advance, usually we like to stick with our plans. If i need to change my flight, i can do it online, so once again how does this cost you?? either i feel really stupid right now or really smart.... can someone write a book for me... how to read a blog for dummies.... I am going on deployment and i already know when we will be coming home, yet i cannot book the flight ahead of time, yet on other airlines i would be able to. I won't book on other airlines because they will never live up to Southwest Airlines standards.. This blog is intense.... i challenge you to a blogging duel.. francisco
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Bill - This is the first real attempt at an explanation that I've read, or heard, with regard to the Southwest booking window. I'm not in the mass transit airline business - so at risk of speaking about that which I don't know - my opinion is that you're doing nothing but helping Delta (et al) emerge from bankruptcy. Example - my family flies to Orlando from Birmingham every year, at the same time every year, for our vacation. I've booked every aspect of our vacation, with the exception of our tickets on Southwest. Delta offers a direct flight from Birmingham as well. Alas, the Delta tickets will be $300 more expensive in sum total ... so I wait. And wait. And wait. As Bill Cosby once said, "you gotta come out sometime kid". I know that sooner or later, you'll open beyond 5/10/07. I sure hope that its sooner. I have four round trip tickets to book ... again. I'm sure that if such could be measured - you've probably lost hundreds of potential June - September passengers (if not thousands) - to rival carriers. How is this a sensible business model?
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Brent: That sounds like quite the conspiracy theory.
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If fares rise, I don't think they'll rise much for anyone to freak out about them compared to previous fares. But yes I'm possitive that Southwest is adding more routes, as if I'm correct a new plane arrives like every two weeks. The new planes that are being put into service have to have routes for them to travel. So I believe the orders and deliveries are a pretty big reason for the delay in the scheduling. As the planners need to take a little extra time to figure out where these planes are going to serve for the busy summer travel season. And here's a wild thought, but highly unlikely. Southwest may also be in a negotiation for a new destination and are buying some extra time to negotiate fee's and such things. Therefore, the extra time may be needed for the negotiation process along with actually planning the routes and putting the pricing on the things. But Bill, if you care about your customers at all, please don't let this happen again.
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Bill, I appreciate the explaination. Unfortunately, as somebody who's taking a multi-city trip from May 4 through May 13th, a greater understanding of the situation does not resolve my concerns, nor my satisfaction with Southwest. Most airlines expand their window in daily increments. I don't think people need such constant updates, but as you've noted, dependibility and schedule predicitibilty are quite valuable to consumers. I could live with 180/120, but not the occasional 90. If you wanted to switch to May - August instead of June through September, you should have gone peacemeal - introduce the May - June period, and then June through August. There is no valid reason why you can't release May before August. Well, there is--you're trying to turn Southwest Airline tickets into Jimmy Buffett tickets: create a mad rush and increase demand. Southwest (in part b/c of the best ad campaign on tv) has a cult appeal, and markets flying as more of a spontanious good. By building a mass of folks begging for the schedule, buying Southwest tickets becomes a fun, high-paced event. It's a cunning strategy, but you're spin is disingenuous.
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Bill - your response is clear as mud. If winds aloft cause this year's schedule issues, won't they affect next year's too? But I'm going to take your word for it. I'm also going to take a WAG that the new DAL to anywhere (with a stop) flights play a part in it - you've never needed to add those into the mix before. I love the two conspiracy theories - SWA is delaying the schedule so we don't notice fare increases and negotiation for a new destination is going on and they need to lock the new destination in before releasing the schedule. I have it on good authority that the real reason is Kim Seale might have a new job and SWA needs to if/know when he starts so they can adjust the candy corn distribution properly. Hey - even though the booking window is shorter than normal, we know that there will be lots of flights, going where we want to go, when we want to go, and Southwest will always be the first choice when choosing which airline will take us there. We also know the schedule will be convenient and the booking process will be simple. And, of course, the people at SWA will be friendly, cheerful and helpful beyond measure while taking us from point A to point B safely and on time.
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Francisco, Airline 'A' publishes their schedule a year in advance. You know you will be coming back from deployment 9 months from now. So you book your reservation with Airline 'A'. While you our underway, the airlines changes the flight scheduling (COSTING them money in additional programming hours) that will change your departure time by several hours. So an representative from Airline 'A' needs to contact you. Costing them money in customer service Their could be other cost to making changes that I am not aware of but, those were the two that I could think of. Of course, also the inconvenience to the you the passenger who made need to make other arrangements because you're leaving 6 to 12 hours later.Hope this makes it a little clearer for you.
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As a TV "weatherman" (really, meteorologist) - I don't quite get your analogy and how it relates to this discussion.... "TV Weathermen have trouble telling us what itÃ
New Arrival
I can confidently state that fares have absolutely nothing to do with the schedule release. Southwest can and does change fares all the time. Furthermore, Southwest is much stingier than other airlines with deep discounts for peak flight times, even when the schedule first opens. In fact, especially when the schedule first opens. Other airlines tend to offer their best prices far, far ahead, even on flights that are destined to sell out early. That's plane dumb, and Southwest doesn't do it. Southwest does a superb job of sizing the various discount buckets to demand, and I haven't seen a deep discount sell out quickly in years. They tend to stay available for months, precisely because Southwest does not offer the deepest discounts on peak flights. On Southwest, the best time window to fish for a discount on a peak flight is 12 weeks to 8 weeks before the flight if seats aren't selling as well as expected. Go ahead and book that flight 4 or 5 months ahead. I always do, but I keep looking for lower fares. Since there are no change fees on Southwest, you can pocket the difference as a travel credit. For example last year I saved $30 when the fare dropped for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, in this case 13 weeks before the travel date. If you're looking for Rapid Rewards seats or planning a trip for which you need to compare Southwest fares to other airlines, then I fully understand the inconvenience. If you want to know what Southwest's fares are likely to be for a given market on a typical non-peak date, just go to http://flyertalk.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=501 and ask. Someone there will probably be able to give you a good estimate. On the other hand, if you want to know whether Rapid Rewards seats wlil be available, capacity controls are new to everyone. The award availability outlook for peak flights (e.g., Friday and Sunday to and from Las Vegas and Orlando) is not great. Still, if you have a day or two of flexibility, Southwest award travel is far easier than hunting for saver award seats on other airlines. As an example of the latter, I was unable to book a saver award in November for a mid-January flight. Rapid Rewards seats were available for any date I wanted, but I bought the tickets for $85 each way to earn more credits.
Employee
Employee
Quick replies for a few: Joe, Brent, James, and David, guys, really, madly, truly, deeply....there is no conspiracy at work here! We've just moved up the effective date of the summer schedule by a month, and there was no corresponding month we could cut out of the schedule development timeline. That's all. Seriously. Honestly. No foolin'! Jim, Yes, the winds will play a factor in next year's schedule as well, and the next, and the next--but we make many of our plans off of history, and when we're writing the summer 2008 schedule we'll have this year's operational performance as history. Clear? Or mud? ;) David, The reason we couldn't release the May schedule in advance is that it's part of the whole summer schedule--and as I explained above, it's just not done yet. The good news, hopefully, is that we won't have to do this to the booking inventory next year at this same time! Francisco, We're all about letting the Customer change. What we don't want to do is (1) force changes on them, or (2) make them cancel altogether because our schedule changed and no longer "works" for them. And the cost comes not as much in bookings via southwest.com, it comes when one of our Reservations Agents has to stop answering Customer calls and switch to making outbound calls advising schedule change. It's a nonproductive use of their time, if it can be avoided! And Steve, Yes, publishing schedules 330 days in advance and then processing schedule change is SOP at most of the other guys. But since when has Southwest ever been content to be like the other guys? We're trying to publish a schedule, let you book on it, then NOT change it, if at all possible. We think that's the way to provide the best Customer Service as it pertains to booking inventory. (Nothing but LUV for TV weather guys, BTW--you guys take more guff than even Schedule Planners do!) Thanks for the replies, folks--keep 'em coming! Bill
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Aw ,shucks! No extra phx n/s 😞 Oh well. My Mom, Aunt and Uncle got in to phx from dtw 40 mins early today. So the winds are already changing. Guess you are not renaming midway airport to southwest airlines continental us airport. Joe Friedmann
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To followup on Bill's latest, there is another couple of reasons why booking 330 days ahead of time doesn't match Southwest's point-to-point and low-cost model. With almost all of the network carriers, the vast majority of the flights feed their hubs. A change of a few minutes on a connecting flight doesn't create the huge domino effect that a change of a few minutes does on one of our nonstops. One of our aircraft may operate eight flight segments from one end of the country to another. So instead of just one or two flights being affected by a line of flight time change like at a legacy carrier, up to eight flights are affected on Southwest. This, in turn, affects the connecting possibilites at each of those eight downline cities. Also, those carriers who do book in advance require a large group in their Reservations departments whose sole job is to handle passenger reaccommodations at schedule changes. This group of their employees doesn't enhance or generate revenue, they simply move passengers from their original flight to their new flights and notify passengers that their longheld plans have changed. Our Reservations Sales Agents are solely devoted to assisting Customers.
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It's getting a little clearer, I'm guessing last year's wind can't be used for this year's schedule for some reason. I prefer the conspiracy theories - new service to the moon, the gate lease price increases at LAX, new airplanes from the factory having in-flight entertainment, assigned seating, etc., etc. Could be the excess gravitational pull caused by sunspots too. But - isn't it really cool that Bill has the courage to pipe in here? I mean, talk about class (and guts) - there's not another airline on earth that has this kind of dialog with their customers, and for the chief bottlewasher to step in and respond speaks volumes about *my* airline. Thanks Bill.
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New service added from the additional 5 gates at PHL. That is causing the delay! ;-P Joe Friedmann
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I still fail to see why you have to post your ENTIRE summer schedule at the same time. Its not written in stone anyway. Post just May through June. Surely you have that figured out by now. Then post june thru july etc. That gives you plenty of opportunity to make any changes you want for any reason. Even if you are adding citys this will work. It will also give you more flexability as changes in the market occur.
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Oh Bill, my loveable Bill (from the song) Thank you and I thank you a hundred more times. I am a res agent and I was asked about our bookings past June, July and into August --- at least 10 times --- and that is just to day! Now I will not have to swivel in my chair 7 times --- uncover my crystal ball and turn it 7 times to the right and 7 times to the left ---- therefore giving my passager a answer --- "We do not have a regular schedule date for bookings to come out -- however I can tell you what we did last year --- but keep in mind --- that is not what we may do this year--- for the world changes every two or three seconds" Then I tell them -- but also inform them ---- "remember keep checking back and we do about 80 percent of the time open about 10:00 am central time" Now all I have to say see Bill Owns' Blog . Our loveable Bill has the answer. 120/180 days since the last opening? However, I will not dicontinue my ritual of 7 plus 7. Carol
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Bill: I think you have completely missed the point. No one said you had to post your entire year schedule now. But the booking date end date of May 10 is ridiculous. It's not really that far off. For me I have all these silly Rapid Rewards credits I never seem to be able to use. I acquire them from flights and your credit card. They start to expire because they are only good for 12 months. So we have a trip planned in late May/early June....dates somewhat flexible. I thought, gosh, I can actually use 4 of these rewards for the family. I need to get some finality here. I have a work schedule that I need to maintain. I have other commitments I need to maintain. Bill, you can pipe in all you want. But your answer is just lip service, plain and simple. Bottom line is that I just called and cancelled the VISA card. It's clear that its a rip off for me, and I'd do better with a different card. I also am booking Alaska Airlines flights up and down the west coast again. If you want my business then you'll need to compete for my business again. Somewhere Southwest lost its innovative touch and is just a shy above the legacies now.....very, very disappointing.
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SWA is the best! But when will SWA finally have a non-stop between Spokane, WA and NYC (JFK/LAG) ?!?
Employee
Employee
I've had dinner (mmmm.....crock-pot roast beef! ) so I'm all fueled up for more responses. Joe--what, not Herbert D. Kelleher Airport? Brian--great reply. In my previous "life" I worked for a while in that department in Reservations. Many of the calls we made for a schedule change of only a few minutes, but many more were for large, significant changes to passengers' itineraries. Trust me, it was never fun knowing almost every call I was going to make that day carried unexpected, and unappreciated, news. Jim--sure, last year's data is valid. It was the shift of the summer schedule's duration that makes historical data less than usable for this year. We'll be back on track for next year! And of course I have the "courage" to post here. I ***LUV*** what I do, so explaining it isn't work--it's more like prosletyzing! Robert--you've got a great point. Let me try and briefly explain why we can't just publish May and June and not the rest of the Summer. We re-analyze our schedule five times a year, which means we look at every single enroute time, departure and arrival time, turn time, through routing, and address operational issues (these are called Base Schedules). After that, our Colleagues in the field get their chance to review and comment on it. After we work through their feedback we finally publish. Each Base Schedule is, for lack of a better phrase, one "piece" of work, which typically takes 10 weeks to complete. So, the May and June schedule-the one lots of folks are waiting on--is really the same piece of work as July and August. And that piece of work's just not done yet. As I've said previously, we shifted the effective/discontinue dates of the summer Base Schedule up by a month, but we couldn't condense the 10 weeks worth of work involved into 6 weeks. To quote President Bush the Former--"ain't gonna happen." Trust me--if we could have, we would! And finally....CR---Thanks!!! Our Reservations Agents have an EXTREMELY near and dear place in my heart. I started in this insane but wonderful industry in Reservations almost 30 years ago. Few people realize what it takes to be an excellent Res agent--you have to be able to listen, think, type, read, and talk, all at the same time. Southwest's Reservations Agents are the BEST. And, CR, next time you gaze into that crystal ball, ask one question for me--who'll win the Oscar for Best Actor? :) Keep the replies, questions, and comments about this coming, folks....even though some of us may have to agree to disagree, I want as many of you as possible to at least understand out thinking--and I've got some great ideas from you as well! Bill
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I personally am glad we do not do things the same old way the other airlines do it....in case you have not noticed....WE ARE MAKING MONEY! compared to alot of the others. obviously there are alot of things we do different, and better in return. i hope our company continues doing what's best for swa, and not to conform with others.
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Bill, First of all, thanks for the post, as scheduling is an obscure science to some of us! :o) It does seem to me like you have attracted a lot of the frustrations accumulated by airlines across the board rather than just Southwest, and maybe that's because other airlines don't communicate and talk about issues such as these? Just shows the great spirit of openness and communication at Southwest! Which probably kills off the conspiracy theories... :o) Scheduling is the bread and butter of all airlines. You make a fair comment that airlines will change over pax who have booked a long time in advance, and inform them of schedule changes. The reality is that the cost/bad PR of doing so means that in a large number of cases, airlines may just run with a bad schedule till the end of that period. All airline business models depend on optimising their operations, and running with a less than optimal schedule can really mess up the finances. I think we'd rather all suffer a few inconveniences and have Southwest flying strong! Ultimately, customers do have the choice, and Southwest offers them some fantastic choices from an otherwise more or less identical (and much less fun!) range! :o)
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Bill, I am not sure "king" Daley would go for that. Although Herb is far more respectable. Joe Friedmann
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So Bill, OK, the process takes time. Why wasn't it started earlier? I read something about needing 10 weeks to do the schedule. Seems like it was taken on as a last minute effort right smack in the middle of the Christmas season, a high travel period and a period of personal and family obligations, so people were disracted. Maybe if it was started before the holidays we'd have something by now? So again, it seems like the ball has been fumbled somewhere along the line. Southwest used to be innovative, but this is just a legacy carrier move here with the lack of up front time....
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I, too, am frustrated with the lack of schedule beyond May 10th. I've been checking southwest.com literally every day (sometimes several times a day) since December 8. Every day that I have checked for well over a month now, I have been disappointed to see no such expanded schedule. Why have I been checking so often? Southwest is the only carrier which flies nonstop to Las Vegas from my general area (western NY-- BUF is close, ROC is closer). I was able to book a one-way flight out in May, but I am desperately trying to book my flight back home. I would prefer to do so on Southwest because of the availability of a nonstop flight. However, at this point, I am seriously looking into booking it on JetBlue or Delta. Sorry to bring up the competitors, but their schedules go through August or later. Every day I delay, I lose out on specials. So, this has been stated before in this blog, but how can Southwest really tolerate losing potential customers like me? I understand the "120/180" rule, but at this point, we're well under 120 days out and have been for quite some time. I am still hoping for a miracle, but it looks like any day now I'm going to go to another carrier for my flight home. I'd rather not, but these delays are causing me to sway in this direction. By the way, on a positive note, I am glad that this blog exists and I'm happy to read some of the comments. It's great that customers and employees are able to converse openly in a "town hall" atmosphere like this. Keep up the good work-- but, like the rest of everyone here, I am really strongly wanting a schedule which pushes much farther into the future.
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Bill - I want some crockpot roast! Next time I'm in Dallas, you'll have to hook me up. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to respond to these issues. You ALL do a great job in Schedule Planning. I bow to greatness! ;-) Regards, James MDW FA
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Bill, Thanks Bill for keeping us up to date. In one of your blog posts you say that the schedule extension will happen in the beginning of February which is fine. Can I at least relax for the rest of January and not check the website every hour making sure it didn't happen sooner? Thanks, Lori
Employee
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A good Friday morning to all! Some responses: Mr. Sheffield, (Wow...makes me feel kinda like Fran Drescher from "The Nanny!") Thanks for the kind words. "Nuts About Southwest" is, by design, all about open-ness and communication, so thank you for noticing! Joe, Probably, but don't tell EITHER of them. Chris, Writing a Base Schedule is *never* taken on "at the last second." Our schedule development timelines are planned, and the work assigned, FAR in advance of when the project kicks off. The work actually started before Thanksgiving, so yes, it spanned the entire holiday season. But that's not only irrelevant, it's a good thing. The actual days off for the holdiays themselves are built into the schedule development timeline (i.e., you back up the start date by however many extra days off are in that time period). What's good about doing this kind of work over the holiday period is that, because so many other folks here at HDQ take time off at that time of year, it's actually QUIET and CALM here in Schedule Planning--allowing the Planners to get more work done. As to why it wasn't started earlier, base schedules come in two kinds: optimized and manually-developed. Optimized schedules can, an are, developed independent of other base schedules. However, we can't completely re-optimize all five annual base schedules (the magnitude of change would be overwhelming), so most schedules, including the Summer '07 one, are of the manually-developed flavor. Manual schedules can't be developed in parallel, because whatever improvements are made in one need to be carried into the next. Example: the March base schedule contained a LARGE number of schedule changes and improvements. We couldn't start the Summer '07 schedule until the March schedule was done--and it went out for sale on November 16th. Work on the Summer '07 schedule began immediately thereafter. Given the constraints we work under and the level of effort involved in one of these projects, I don't think I'd call that "dropping the ball." Instead, I'd use a different sports metaphor--I'd call it a "tag-team marathon." Kevin, I can understand your frustration. Yes, we're well below 120 days, which is our usual target, and we're going to "bottom out" at about 90 days of inventory this time. All I can ask for is for a couple more weeks worth of patience from you. Don't bail on us yet! (and are you getting through your lake-effect snow allright?) Cheers, all! Bill
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Bill, Thanks again for taking all of the time addressing specific requests/posts. My advice to my father was, "If you see a fare you can't live without, buy it, but remember, all of SWA's low fares will be posted with the new schedule, and are frequently lower than the other guy's 'sale fares'". I'm sorry some are losing patience, but others realize the value in waiting for the non-stop service at SWA prices. I'd armchair quarterback your performance too, but I need it for the Bears. ;-) Will Browne MDW F/A
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We've been waiting for SWA to open up reservations through May for months! We have a cruise booked and if you don't open the the reservations soon, you will force us to go to the competition! How does that help SWA? If and when you open these flight up, they will be immediately taken. What happens if we're out of town for a week or so? We'll be SOL. I think the Rapid Rewards members should get first chance at the tickets - send us a DING or an email, PLEASE!
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Mary, In my experience, you will receive notice via DING! shortly after the schedule opens.
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Bill, Me again and I just thought I'd let you know I will be sticking around and waiting for SWA to open the flight I need. This is my first time flying (booking- waiting- any of it) So I suppose I don't have a lot of room to get irrate, and nothing to compare it to. And for now the money I'll spend on tickets is hanging out in my savings account accumulating interst 🙂
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Still not making any sense..... As you can see there are a lot of valued customers waiting to make their summer plans but they cannot all because you do not to force your reservations agents to do more work. Come on, i need a better answer then that... Now by the time you release your new schedule, it will be booked up solid, there goes all of the low fares. I still love you guys, i just do not like your spin on this... see you soon.
Employee
Employee
Good afternoon, everyone! Mary, Again, as I've asked others--please be patient with us for just a while longer. Erica, Thanks, and enjoy your first flight!!! Hopefully you'll be back time and time again. Francisco, It's not that we don't want to "force [our] reservations agents to do more work." We don't want them to do needless work, and calling to advise of changed itineraries, to me, is needless, particularly when we can publish a schedule that is much more "solid" by allowing inventory to dip down, temporarily, to 90 days. We may have to agree to disagree on this one, but even if you don't agree, at least you know why we've made the decision that we've made. Have a good weekend, everyone! Bill
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How about starting a waiting list for possible reservations? I don't know how you would handle it, but it might make some of us happy.
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Bill, If you've gotten this kind of negative feedback regarding the reservations schedule from this blog, just think of the 1000's of SWA customers who have no idea the blog even exists. Once you open it up, the reservations system won't be able to handle the reservations coming in all at once. Will you reimbuse the extra $$ we'll have to spend because the low fares will be gone by the time we receive notice SW has graciously decided to open more dates? I can make reservations on other airlines nearly a year in advance, and no, they don't have their reservation agents call if and when there is a schedule change. I'll either get an e-mail or snail-mail advising of any changes. I'm really trying to be patient, but this is ridiculous!
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Dear Bill, The past 6 months, waiting on Wn to open sale dates has been more frustrating than I can recall in many years. I have a group that travels with you to LAS every year in March. On the morning you opened for sale, I was on hold for 7HRS with the group desk to get in and make a reservation. While I held I had my agents calling anyone we could think of at WN to see if there was any other way in to book this group. By the time my call was answered, fare was almost up to full fare. We could not book group online or via fax or email. Your strategy of opening in blocks of time worked for awhile after Sept 11 but in the past year we have seen a shift to many people planing vacations much farther in advance. Because of this, hotels, cruise ships etc are booking up more quickly, and people cannot wait around for Wn in order to firm their vacation plans. We have seen this to be a particular problem in the Orlando market for summer 2007 for our Disney packages. Families who wish to stay on site at Walt Disney World are having to book with other airlines. Normally we would have booked them all with Southwest Vacations. It is difficult to see how this much lost revenue can be offset by your having to manage less schedule changes. Please reconsider working with at least a 6 month block of time now that people seem to be booking farther inadvance. Thank you Kathy Smith KC MO
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Mary, Are you for real? Waiting lists? Reimbursement? Seriously, relax. And if you can't do that, book on another carrier already and be done with this issue.