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WHY CAN'T I MAKE RESERVATIONS FURTHER IN ADVANCE?

Bill
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
Dave_Martin
Not applicable
Bill, I have been a very loyal Southwest passenger since service from Orlando began several years ago. It is obvious that the flight crew enjoys their jobs, can't beat the flight attendants and their jokes that no other airline would dare to allow. Southwest always seems to have the non stop flights to the destinations I fly to. Unfortunately I too have had to go to the competition today because I ran out of time for making reservations for a wedding on May 12th. With this disappointment behind us, I do look forward to flying Southwest again and would like to just say a big THANK YOU to everyone at Southwest for the great service that you have provided in the past and the future.
Steve4
Not applicable
Finally Bill returns, but with the attitude we just have to wait it will happen when we want it to happen without concern for our customers. Bill Delta thanks you for the booking of 12 roundtrip tickets for the summer for my wife, 2 kids and me for our trips in June, July and August. Delta $3000, Southwest $0.00. I thought maybe Herb decided to make a point and fired you so this never happens again, that would of been my move if I was in charge, lucky for you I am not. In my opinion Southwest has become to big and forgot about taking care of their loyal customers. Oh well I know Delta needs the money and obviously Southwest does not.
Paul1111
Not applicable
Add me to the list of those tired of waiting for new dates to open. I share many of the problems others who travel to Las Vegas have expressed. Hotels and car rentals go up while we wait. From my airport (BUF) Southwest is the only non stop to Las Vegas. There are other things about Southwest that I don't enjoy, but could live with: for example, no assigned seats. in some airports, people are standing in line a full hour before the flight leaves. I fly three or four times a year, so I never quite get a free ticket. Still my other complaints would be minor if I could count on being able to book 120 days in advance. You seem like a real nice guy, Bill. Still, if a viable non stop alternative to Southwest starts flying here, they will probably get my business.
Francisco_Delga1
Not applicable
Come on people, give it a rest.. Bill I accept your apology, and look forward to flying with Southwest. I think we are too spoiled in this country. Whenever I do not get what i want i cry....boo hoo... to the mean customer, no i will not sell my shares from Southwest. I will always be loyal, they really know how to take care of their customers. See you in the air soon. To the rest, enjoy the other airlines, especially when you have to pay for a pillow 🙂
Paul1111
Not applicable
Francisco, I thought the whole point of a blog was to allow the exchange of different opinions. I don't feel Southwest is evil, and I am not spoiled. I just agree with the people who would like Southwest to change a business policy that makes it difficult for me to travel. Maybe it's because most of my flights are at least 4 hours long, but I don't really enjoy flying on any airline. Do you?
Lori4
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Bill, I think you've done a great job keeping us up to date. I'm so glad that I found this blog. I wish the people who were flying in July and August would post here because they are probably glad that they'll get to book so early. I understand why the May people are upset, but there are probably July and August people who are psyched that they'll be able to book both segments of their flights. Even though most of the people posting here are mad, there are probably alot of customers that are happy too, we are just not hearing from them. Except for me, because I'm flying the last week of July into August! lol Lori
Drew1
Not applicable
Steve, Your frustration is understandable, but wishing that Bill is fired for this delay is irrational. You may feel better saying such things anonymously on a blog, but really, you don't need to be a jerk.
chuchoteur
Not applicable
Steve, it is totally unfair to call for Bill's dismissal like that. he is not sole responsible for the scheduling problems! And actually, it is one of the great things about Southwest that they don't have a "hire and fire" policy! It is one of the things that make them unique. I sincerely believe that a mistake has been made, it is in the process of being rectified (and we all know it sometimes can take time - at least we now know when the new schedule should be online!), and those people involved (including Bill!) will definitely not be making the same mistake twice! The guy has apologised so many times I really do feel sorry for him... if I was in his shoes I'd be feeling quite upset (maybe it's time for some Korn!!). There's no quick way out, but at least everyone's had an opportunity to discuss the issue and get answers, and that's waaaay more than with many other airlines (I've stopped counting the number of times I've stared at a phone and really wanted to write a scathing letter, only to discover some companies don't even have a postal address on their website!!!). And hopefully, everyone out there who's had to book with another airline will come back to Southwest some day, and give them a 2nd chance!
Katy
Not applicable
Thanks for the 120/90/180 day rule info. Please know that we are awaiting Mothers Day plans, graduation plans, Memorial Day plans and EVERYTHING because, yes, like the rest of the blog, we would much rather fly Southwest... Just one more cheering SWA on because WE LIKE YOU, WE REALLLY LIKE YOU! So PLEASE make Momma happy??
Keith6
Not applicable
Like the poster above who is trying to get back from Florida just days after the May 10th schedule, I had our first half booked, but ended up booking a one way back on Northwest. I am from the Detroit area and try to avoid flying them at all costs, but today, they had $83.90 all in one way fares, and I snapped up 4 tickets for a one way and will not look back. It looks like many of the legacies will post one way fares (of course not with the same refund policies of Southwest) at the same low prices as Southwest where they compete on the same routes. I noticed that DTW-BWI ($49), DTW-MDW ($49), DTW-STL ($59), DTW-BNA ($59), DTW-LAS ($79), DTW-PHX ($79), and DTW-MCO ($83) were all available from Northwest as bookable one way trips. Coincidentally, those are all the same routes where Southwest flies non stop from Detroit.
doncie
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Would ya'll like some cheese with this wine?? Enough is enough! u bunch of crybabies Let this go..........................
Steve4
Not applicable
Drew That was my opinion, no need to be calling people jerks when you don't know them. Would your employer let you make what is probably a million dollar error without firing you. My comment was not irrational just what I would do if one of my employees cost my company that much money. Before you question the million dollars who knows the actual amount. As previous posts state a lot of people don't even know about the blog or would post anyway. I am sure there are just as many people waiting patiently as there are people like myself who booked elsewhere. As far as replying to posts by calling people jerks for their opinion take the high road like Raphael who objected to my message without calling people names. Steve
Anonymous375
Not applicable
Donna, We are making valid comments, hoping SWA will not make the same mistake again. If you don't want to read our posts, then PLEASE don't read them!!
Shannon
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I am like many of you waiting for the schedule to open so that we can confirm tickets for a family reuinion back east. I have been patiently waiting to book the air fare for 13 people since January 1.... and so far the delay in booking our hotel rooms & car rental has cost us in excess of $300 per family. I am only hoping that Southwest will keep their current pricing in place when they open the new dates and that it will help make up costs for the delay of booking and that we don't loose out on the rooms we want with the hotel we have chosen. Any insite out there on the sale fares being extended?
James_Clowes
Not applicable
It would be nice to be able to make reservation for 9 months. Right now I have 3 trips in August, September and Novemeber that I am going to have to go on another airline because I have to have them ticketed by Friday 2/2/07 at midnight. Please open up to Sept 10 NOW. Thank you
Barbi
Not applicable
I think Shannon brings up a very valid question and maybe Bill will address it. Those of us irritated (if not angry) but so far loyal customers have waited (im)patiently. Will there be a super sale to make up for our irritation and to attempt to retain the loyal customer base? As for Steve, you really think Bill made this decision by himself? Wow, he has more power than I realized! How kind of him then to step down from his ivory tower and talk to us lowly customers.
Brian2
Not applicable
Bill - Stumbled across this blog looking for information on the SCHEDULE. A lot or good information. I look forward to booking my family's summer travel with SWA! Thanks.
James_Clowes
Not applicable
I think it would be great to have SWA reservation be able to be made more than 180 days out (now 90. It would help with planning. Right now I have 3 trips for August and I need to book by Feb 15 for the other party to pay for it.
Drew1
Not applicable
Steve, As Bill has already stated, the schedule delay is not a mistake or an error. No doubt, this would not be happening without the knowledge and support of his management. I'm glad Raphael took the high road. That is a courtesy you certainly did not afford Bill. As for me, I will continue to call a spade a spade.
Drew1
Not applicable
Shannon, You need not have your air travel booked to book hotels and rental cars. Perhaps I wrongly assume that this is common knowledge. The vast majority of hotel and rental car reservations require no deposits and can be changed or cancelled without penalty.
Harpo
Not applicable
This is the funniest thing I have ever seen. People, y'all need to get a life. It's just a schedule...let it go! Obviously SWA knows what iti s doing as it is the most profitiable airline in the world. Just be patient!!!
Francisco_Delga1
Not applicable
DITTO ON THAT ONE... HARPO... LET US ALL MOVE ON. AHHH POOR STEVE. I HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ENJOYS DELTA AIRLINES, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOUR FLIGHT GETS CANCELLED. I AM SURE BILL IS AN ASSET TO SOUTHWEST... MAYBE YOU COULD LEARN FROM SOUTHWEST ON HOW TO HANDLE YOUR EMPLOYEES...
nsx1
New Arrival
Southwest is well aware that its limited schedule horizon relative to competitors costs it some revenue. We can be sure that the cost and benefits are fully studied, so the typical limited horizon must save more money that it costs. Furthermore, Bill's optimized summer schedule probably also will save more than the revenue lost due to customer defections between now and February 8. Otherwise the plan to delay release a few weeks beyond the norm never would have been approved. What Southwest is learning for the first time from this blog is that there is another cost, not so easily quantified: customer goodwill. That's why Southwest has apparently decided not to let anything close to the current shortage of bookable dates recur. Just my opinion as a long-time customer.
Cat_B
Not applicable
Bill, I'd like to join in thanking you for this information -- not just the possible date, but what is really going on. Just after Thanksgiving, my fellow travellers booked on Lesser Airlines for our annual mid-May Vegas trip. But I was waiting patiently for SWA. Earlier this week, girlfriends are asking why I still don't have a ticket. And after a beer or two I was speculating that Southwest was going out of business! There could be no other explanation! I had almost given up, when a last-ditch midnight websearch brought me here. Isn't there some official corporate way to let your poor reservation agents know about all this? After poking at the website for months, I did call a few times, and the people answering the phones weren't their usual cheerful selves on this topic. They sounded just as uninformed and frustrated as I was... Some thoughts for the business people: 1) You can't sell inventory you don't have. Please, take my money! 2) If the res agents don't have spend time calling customers about schedule changes, they will take multiple calls and listen to customers whimper and whine (that's me!) when the schedule isn't open yet. Poor Bill. I hope you guys get a vacation after this :-). cat b.
Don_t_give_up_p
Not applicable
Hopefully SWA doesn't just let it go and have the attitude that loyal to a point customers can live with this level of incompetence. Obviously from the uncaring response I get when talking to their phone reps they are getting lots of calls about this. It is their business to meet and exceed customer expectations. They have drifted away from that. All great & profitable businesses stumble, look at Wal-Mart, and hopefully SWA will get their act together real soon.
Randy_T
Not applicable
Bill, It appears that you have a lot of unhappy customers and you can add me to the what looks like a growing list. I always travel exclusivley on Southwest, I am a Companion Pass holder and have more Rapid Rewards tickets than I probalby can use. My office is in Long Beach and I commute from Phoenix on a regular basis. I would fly Southwest versus the other guys to either LAX or John Wayne and travel to Long Beach for what was better on time service. I guess you hooked me with the Company Plane slogan! On the past 6 SW flights I have taken, 2 have been canceled and 3 were late by more than an hour. Now I can't even book my summer vaction due to the reservation freeze. My take is it has everything to do with profits and very little to do with reservation changes. Just like oil companies raise their rates in the summer months its called supply and demand. Something to keep in mind Ford used to be the number 1 profit guys as well maybe Herb should read the paper! Off to Long Beach direct! Thanks, Randy
Anonymous852
Not applicable
I am a customer waiting to book a trip in June and August. I am not angry and can certainly wait until Feb 8th. I am annoyed and while I will probably continue to fly Southwest, my opinon of them has dropped. If I was traveling in May and could only book half my trip, I would probably be angry. The rationale for keeping 120 days of inventory out there makes perfect sense. However, letting that drop to even 120 days doesn't seem right. The inventory should be on a 30 day replenishment window so that customers do not have to keep guessing and wasting time checking. While Bill seems like a nice guy, I was disappointed in his response that "it's over and done with - the schedule will open when it opens". It's not over. It won't be over until the schedule is opened and everyone is satisfied that they have been able to book at the rate and schedule that they had hoped for. Travelers have been complaining about this for over a month on other boards and for over a week on this thread. Southwest should have been in tune with their customers needs and been able to at least open 30 days more of inventory in a quicker time frame than two weeks. I can't imagine a mistake like that continuing at my company.
Julie_Russo
Not applicable
I understand your 120/180 schedule, but when will it change to allow us to book for the summer? I've been waiting to book my flights to Florida for a cruise in June and it's been STUCK at booking through May 10th for quite a LONG time now. I'm sure there are others out there who are ready to start booking for their summer vacations. Just a comment. Thanks!
Jo2
Not applicable
Thanks Bill for the info you keep giving us! To all that are freaking out! YOU know there will be flights I have my disney trip booked flight there hotel park passes and no flight home! Am I worried ? NO, cause I know there will be flights home, if i dont get the lowest priced one so what, I will pay the next price up! I think you all need to calm down if this is bothering you that much, then go fly another airline that you can book now and be done with it! Thanks again Bill for keeping us updated and answering people on here .. even if some are very rude to you! Jo
Bill
Employee
Employee
Guys, Here's a little more info that might help dispel the "Southwest doesn't care about its Customers" talk on this thread. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth! The reality of the process is that when I first posted this blog piece last week, it was already too late to open the summer any earlier than February 8th, no matter how we tried. All of this is intensely complex and has many complicated, inter-related tasks that have to be completed in their proper sequence before we can open the schedule for sale. After Schedule Planning is done with the work of writing and verifying the schedule, there remains a good 10 days of work that other departments have to complete AFTER we "ship" it to them. For example, it has to be loaded into our reservations system, into SABRE, and into southwest.com--so that's something like 1.4 million itineraries to get loaded for the roughly 95 days of inventory that's going out for sale. The process is partially automated, but there is still a lot of manual work that has to be done to augment the automation. Then, our friends in Revenue Management have to get the inventory readyÃ
Jack_Torrance
Not applicable
On more week till we can book for the summer month I guess we all are going to survive . I am waiting to book the week of May 27 . Summer is coming soon !
Harpo1
Not applicable
Connie SWA is in tune with its customers, thats why they make sure their schedule is set before they publish so they dont change it on you. Just be patient people. They got like over 2 thousand daily flights, you'll get your seat when they publish. Sheesh!
Shannon
Not applicable
Drew, The reson for waiting on the hotel reservations was that the "pricing" was based on prepaid non-refundable purchase. Since I do not know what time or day I can book the flight from SWA I do not needlessly want to pay extra nights notel either. The reson we lost on the vehical rental was that we wanted a passanger van for up to 14 people and every car rental company has already sold out for the time frame we are aiming for. Now we must rent 3 smaller vehicls.
David39
Not applicable
TO WHOMEVER CARES AT SOUTHWEST AIRLINES - WOULD YOU PLEASE UNLOCK THE SCHEDULE AND ALLOW PASSENGERS TO BOOK FLIGHTS BEYOND 5/10/07? If you read this blog from top to bottom, you can devine the increasing frustration with your current (AND FORMER) customers. Is this your idea of downsizing? Apparently, the new corporate policy is to chase as many potential passengers off to other carriers as possible. Feeling altruistic or something? Are we THAT compelled to help Delta emerge from bankruptcy and stave off the hostile takeover of US Air? I've read your spin. I'm a Registered Financial Consultant and Chartered Asset Manager, and from my professional perspective - this makes as much sense as does chewing gravel. When do "the powers" at SWA GET THE MESSAGE that we as YOUR CUSTOMERS couldn't be more unhappy with this airline? Do you care?
Scott5
Not applicable
Why is everyone scared to make ground plans ahead of schedule release. When has a release failed to produce the desired results when the release occurs.
Rita
Not applicable
One does not need to wait to book airline tickets to reserve a room or car. Even if you have to give a nights deposit on the room, it is fully refundable up until 72 hours before arrival. You certainly cannot blame SW or any airline for not reserving a car or room when you first learned your dates. I will be going to Vegas the end of May and I too have been waiting patiently for the dates to open. We made these plans about 10 months ago and that is when I called the hotel and reserved my room. The rates certainly did go up since then but I am locked with the price I was quoted 10 months ago.
Brian_in_CA
Not applicable
I am traveling before 10May and taking advantage of the "DING!" specials for LAS, PHX, and SAN. Don't worry summer people, your schedule will be worth waiting for. 🙂
Harpo1
Not applicable
To David Guttery When will you get? SWA does trhings different, thats why they are successful. If they did htings like everyone esle, they wouldnt be here. Everyone...just chill. I can't believe how worked up everyone is over an airline seat. When it comes out it comes out. Ranting lkike this wont make it any faster.
Mary21
Not applicable
If you want to stop the "Southwest doesnÃ
Drew1
Not applicable
Shannon, Thanks for the explanation!
Shannon
Not applicable
Drew, Your welcome.
Brian_in_CA1
Not applicable
Here is another conspiracy theory....SUPERBOWL MADNESS!!!! Maybe Southwest is taking the Superbowl Commercial Hype by Storm. Hmmmmmm........................
Sandi1
Not applicable
It has been quite an inconvenience to not be able to plan my flights, but what can you do. For the nasty posters...I understand your frustration, but come on it is a free country...go to a different airline instead of becoming so obsessed and getting down right nasty. It sounds like you are just looking for a reason to be mad at someone and yes it sounds like you shouldn't wait a second longer before you take a vacation...they are still booking through May 10th. Your health could be at risk if you are getting this worked up....get away NOW!!!
Raven
Not applicable
Hey Brian in CA you might be on to something. The only reason I watch the SuperBowl is for the commercials...now I wanna know if I can anticipate a Southwest "Need to Get Away" funny commercial. What a great marketing idea Southwest has with those commercials and as someone stated in a earlier reply they have become a "commercial cult". Keep on keeping on Southwest!!!
Eddy_in_Austin
Not applicable
We now all know that February 8th is the date so it doesn't do any good to complain about it now. Everything that new posters want to say, has been said. You want to make a point and make them anxious? Just post a simple line in here like... "Booked with American, could not wait any longer." I am a gambler by nature and am waiting for February 8th for my first family vacation to Orlando and we are leaving May 6th and returning May 11th. Myself, I am not worked up about the date being off one day because any special I would have been looking for in the past month would probably be gone anyway. I say a gambler, because I just saw the lowest fare I found on a competitor website go up $50 per ticket and will wait until Feb. 8th. Geez, SWA can't be more than $375 RT to Orlando from Austin on that week, can they??? Earlier, Bill stated he doubted there were maybe "thousands" who are in the same situation since only 20 or so are posting in here. I guarantee if SWA put a banner on the top of the page or in line with their Menu on the right side that read "PLEASE SEND COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS HERE" there will be a LOT more responses. Instead, the Blog is at the bottom of the screen as the last item in small print. Marketing of course. Provide an avenue for discussion to keep up with the internet world but keep it small and hard to find. Many people who are knowledgeable (sp?) enough to surf the internet, do not even know what a Blog is. Like somebody said earlier, if you are that worried about your vacation, book it on another carrier. Otherwise, join me at the Craps table and let the gambling continue....
Brian_in_CA1
Not applicable
Hey Raven.....ever been to CA? 🙂
Kristan
Not applicable
I do not understand why the flights for May are not open I am planning a cruise that is 101 days out, yet the flights for southwest are still not open, I am going to be forced to fly another carrier.
Raven
Not applicable
Why Brian in CA? Are you needing someone to come watch the commercials with you this Sunday? lol Should I catch a Southwest flight to CA and we can look for those "Need to get away" commercials 🙂
Chris111
Not applicable
Despite Bill's comments, I continue to believe this is all about maximizing revenues. The official party line may be a complete schedule re-work, which by the way is based upon maximizing revenues on the routes serviced. If it wasn't Southwest could simply just roll over the current schedule for another few weeks to get past May and then open up mid-June for the schedule re-work. I believe in its history, Southwest has done this from time to time (short schedule extensions) The fact that this was never even considered suggests it is a lot more about revenues than what has been disclosed. Now is it wrong for a "for profit" company to be concerned about revenues? Not at all. But there is a balancing act that needs to be taken against this theory and the theory of goodwill of customers. I will always believe Southwest dropped the ball here, and this, along with the lack of time to use rapid rewards (when you earn so darn many you can't use em all) and the assigned seat experiment are my only qualms....
Bill9
Not applicable
Bill, Nice to have an explanation but the fact is that I have been checking with my preferred airline (SW) daily to attempt a Memorial Day weekend reservation to attend a nephew's wedding. I like the way SW does business and fly SW when at all possible. However, IÃ