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"Santa's Sleigh Flies In This Stuff... Why Can't We?"

rstark
Not applicable
 "Because we aren't Santa Claus...THAT's why." Travel in winter is fun. Invariably, when you plan a trip, Mother Nature throws some weather into the equation, and when it comes to flying, that understandably triggers apprehension in many people. (Hey, I live in Phoenix! Anything below 65 degrees triggers apprehension in me! "Honey! Where's my COAT!!!") Flying in winter weather is far safer than driving on crusty frozen roads. In the air, you don't have to worry about another plane skidding on a turn and running into you. Planes in flight don't have to slow down in cold weather. Jet engines are easier to start than car motors in freezing weather. Even snow doesn't really affect airliners, until it's time to land. The best way to get traction when braking on snowy surfaces is to be really heavy. There aren't many heavier vehicles on rubber tires than an airliner. Plus, unlike cars, planes have reverse thrust. With reverse, on longer runways, I have landed just fine on icy runways, covered in snow. The hardest part was taxiing to the gate but, at three mph, even that wasn't too hard. Snow is a hassle because it creates barriers to planes just as it does to automobiles. Drifts of snow build up and often times, airports run out of room to pile it up after plowing it out of the way in the vicinity of terminals. Or, it falls faster than the snow removal teams can remove it from the airport surfaces. Taxiways and runways have nifty blue edge lights. But, it sure is nice to see the other lights embedded in the center of the taxiway or runway. However, seeing those is not essential, even at night. That is why we Pilots slow down to a fraction of our normal taxi speed: We want to make sure where we are going and that we can stop when we get there. A plane buried in snow overnight can be easily "de-iced" with hot snow/ice removal fluid and go on its way just fine, assuming the snow is not falling too heavily. Snow melting in the de-ice fluid dilutes this fluid, and eventually, it will freeze as if it is water. We call the time between de-ice and contamination, the "holdover time." Get airborne before the conservative holdover time expires and you are on your way. "Bust" that time and you are heading back to get de-iced again. The Pilots will confirm the plane is clean and safe for departure. If need be, you will see one of them in the cabin looking at the wings up close if there is any question whatsoever. The only thing that really throws a "monkey wrench" into travel plans is freezing rain like that which recently hit Oklahoma. Freezing rain is caused when warmer air sits above colder air on the ground. Rain falls through the colder air and freezes on everything it contacts. Trying to de-ice a plane in these conditions is purely futile because there is no way to know how heavy the rainfall is. Unlike snowfall that accumulates much slower and is easy to measure by its affect of visibility, rainfall is hard to measure accurately. It doesn't take much freezing rain to shut down flying operations. Once the freezing precipitation stops falling, the planes can be hosed down with hot de-ice fluid and sent on their way. So, when you look at The Weather Channel before your airline trip, don't be upset to see winter weather in your path or at your destination. Airports and airlines are experienced in dealing with messy weather. If they can safely get you on your way, they will. If they decide to err on the side of caution, it is because the airlines have learned how to safely operate in harsh winter environments. They will not cut corners just to get the plane airborne on time. And with operations slowing down as weather worsens, expect some delays in your travel schedule. To paraphrase a saying from my old days in the Air Force's Strategic Air Command, "Rigid Flexibility: The Key To Successful Air Travel!" That said, unless you are heading into a blizzard or ice storm, expect operations to be pretty much normal. Expect a few delays and most likely, you will be pleasantly surprised to find your flight departing and arriving pretty much on time. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays From all the Crews and staff here at Southwest Airlines! I look forward to seeing you onboard one of my flights in the New Year!
10 Comments
chuchoteur
Not applicable
Hi Ray, Indeed, airlines are quite profficient and used to operating aircraft in winter weather! My thoughts also go to all those ground crew who work to turn around the aircraft in the cold (and sometimes) snow! (Now that's where that Warrior spirit is really needed! and a cuppa hot coffee!). So a big thumbs up to those guys and gals we rarely see but do a great job getting us all up in the air! :o)
joe-mdw-plane-d
Not applicable
Sometimes the weather causes mid air diversions as the phx to dtw n/s sunday went back to phx. http://flightaware.com/live/flight/SWA1428 The preceding message has been thoroughly inspected and approved by Brian or Paula right? The unauthorized but still here ding! boy Joe!
Zack_D_
Not applicable
i live in Buffalo, NY. How well does Southwest cope with snow at BUF? Last year, my Northwest flight was canceled because the weight of the snow on the tail had make it do a sort of teeter/totter with the front of the DC-9 pointed way into the air!
Dai_Ly
Not applicable
Can someone tell me why an A-List person get a higher boarding number than a person with no status? I checked in exactly 24 hour in advance and I got an A-50. I understand that 1-15 are reserved for Business select tickets, but where are other 34 peoples coming from? This doesn't happen just once but almost every weeks for me since the Southwest changed the boarding procedures.
Frederic_Wiedem
Not applicable
I think you guys and gasl do a great job in even the worst of conditions
scottnearsmf
New Arrival
My best answer to Dai Ly's question is that either you didn't complete your booking with 36 or more hours left to departure (you didn't say) or there were 35 people with A-1 status who completed their booking ahead of you. Is that how the placement of the order of A-1 passes determined?
Bev
Not applicable
36 hours before the flight departs, the computer pulls all Rapid Rewards A-List members who have included their Rapid Rewards number in their reservation and then assigns their boarding pass number. Dependent upon how many A-List passengers are on that flight then determines the first boarding pass number available for all other passengers checking in 24 hours in advance. For specific information about the A-List, you can go to the website Southwest.com, choose the "Rapid Rewards" option from the blue bar, and then read "What's New".
Joe25
Not applicable
I honestly believe Southwest is the best airline we have in the USA, and I would never think that SWA would ever sacrifice human safety over the almighty dollar - but I have to be honest, there are a few US carriers out there that don't give me that warm and fuzzy feeling like SWA does. Even though the other airlines do have some great employees just like SWA, the other airline corporations seem to put too much pressure on their employees. Southwest, please keep growing... America needs you...
rstark
Not applicable
Joe, Thank YOU! I have never worked at another airline though I have many friends who do -or have. All I know is, at this company, I have full latitude do do whatever I think is safe. If that means waiting out weather or diverting, the company backs me 110%. Even if other planes are operating, if I choose not to fly, they supprot me in that decision. That is the way it shhould be. I hope it that way at other companies as well. In my heart, I believe there will be big changes and fantastic new announcements about exciting new growth and changes here at Southwest in the New Year. Thanks for your patronage and keep tuned in for great news! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!! Ray
joe-mdw-plane-d
Not applicable
Thanks Ray! I seem to have missed your post. Joe