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Flight Cancelled Due to Low Booking - Increase Notice Please

New Arrival

Greetings,

 

I'm going to preface the following post by stating that I am not here to start an argument, rather my aim is to draw some awareness to what I consider to be a poor business practice.  This practice in particular is cancelling flights with low booking numbers, forcing passengers to frantically rebook a new flight and often times forcing passengers into a boarding position that is less optimal than what they originally had.  And with that, I believe there is room for SWA to fix this practice and make the airline better in terms of customer relations.  

 

Ok here it is...

 

  1.  I flew a fair amount in 2018 and received A-List status for 2019...I enjoyed this benefit of frequent flying so I tried to earn it again for 2020.  I racked up 23 or 24 flights in 2019 so I missed the 25 flight A-List threshold for 2020.  Darn!  Not really a problem though because the rules are clearly outlined.  Needless to say, I fly frequently and I always fly Southwest.  Therefore, my loyalty to the airline is clear.

 

  1.  In my travels, as with anyone’s, there have been some hiccups due to weather, mechanical issues, etc.  Not really an issue because these types of hiccups I consider to be unforeseeable events.  

 

  1.  I've had to fly twice this January 2020 (with SWA, of course) and in both of these trips, I've had portions of the itinerary cancelled less than two hours before departure.  As best as I can tell, the reason for these cancellations is due to low bookings on the flights I scheduled.  How can I determine this?  

 

Well, let's imagine that I'm driving or riding in a taxi to the airport to arrive 1-2 hours before scheduled departure and I see clear skies and the weather is normal.  Then suddenly, I receive a notification saying my flight has been canceled.  Not that it has been canceled and rebooked, just that it's been canceled and well, good luck with everything!  

 

Ok, so I'm in my taxi and I think to myself, "Crap, I guess I should call or chat SWA to see if I can get rebooked on another flight".  So I give them a call and the representative says, "Sure, we can rebook you on a 10:35AM flight and we're sorry your 8:20AM flight was cancelled."  "Ok" I say, not exactly thrilled with waking up early to hang at the airport for 3 hours, "that would be appreciated."  Out of curiosity I ask, "By the way, do you know why the flight was cancelled?"  "Low ceilings and fog", the SWA agent replies.  I inquire further and ask, "Really?  The flight was cancelled because of fog in San Francisco?"  No response.  I call BS, the agent refers me to customer service, the conversation ends and I continue en route to the airport.

 

I soon arrive to the airport and I think, after getting through security, I should look at the departures monitor to see how many flights were cancelled due to this foggy weather in San Francisco.  After all, fog is so rare in San Francisco, it only occurs 365 days out of the year, every year.  Surely there must be a number of flights cancelled due to this weather phenomenon.  Ahh, there it is!  Upon clearing the security checkpoint, I quickly see the bright towering beacon that indiscriminately imparts departures knowledge upon any traveler willing to stand in front of it and look confused.  

 

Let's see here, yup ok there's my canceled flight, SFO - LAX, 8:20AM.  Ok, is anything else canceled?  Nope.  SFO - Vegas, 8:45AM, on time / SFO - LAX, 7:20AM, departed on time, SFO to Phoenix, 8:25AM, on time....hmm that's strange I think to myself, the only flight that's been cancelled is the 8:20AM to LAX.  So, because of the great San Francisco fog oddity of January 27, 2020, one flight was cancelled and all the others, including every SWA flight, even those which left within five minutes of my originally scheduled 8:20AM departure, were all on time.  Ding, ding, ding!  One flight out of approximately 100 flights from various airlines was cancelled.  

 

So at the very least, from this short story, you can see that the flight was not cancelled due to weather.  It was cancelled more likely due to a low number of bookings on the 8:20AM flight.  Now I understand SWA has a business to run and it might not make sense to take a crew and 20 passengers on a 737 down to LA.  In fact it makes no sense at all financially.  But my question is, how long did Southwest know that there were only 20 people on this flight.  Obviously they knew more than 1 hour and 45 minutes before the departure which is when I received my cancelled flight notification.  

 

And with that, if you folks know the flight is going to be cancelled because of low booking numbers, then can you at the least please give us a heads up the day before or the night before?  So we can rebook a new flight a little ahead of time and not have to hang out at the airport for 3 hours writing messages like this one?  And at the very most, when A1-15 is not filled ahead of time, which is blatantly clear while lining up to board, could you offer those seats to people who had an A boarding position from an earlier flight that was cancelled due to low booking numbers?  In terms of helping to maintain loyalty amongst customers like myself who fly with you guys approximately 20-25 times a year, I think changing these things would be a good idea.  

 

Your consideration is appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

4 REPLIES 4
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Re: Flight Cancelled Due to Low Booking - Increase Notice Please

Top Contributor

@joeyxsamuels wrote:

 

  1.   

 

  1.  I've had to fly twice this January 2020 (with SWA, of course) and in both of these trips, I've had portions of the itinerary cancelled less than two hours before departure.  As best as I can tell, the reason for these cancellations is due to low bookings on the flights I scheduled.  How can I determine this?  

 

 Well I'm afraid you can't determine this. The only thing you can go by is what the airline tells you.

 

However, no airline cancels flights with low bookings. Why? Because it disrupts things thru the system for the entire day  -- and maybe beyond..

 

1) The airline has to find a new plane to fly the route out of what your destination would have been. If it doesn't then there's another cancellation. Then what about the next city it was supposed to be in.

 

2) Same as #1, but this time it needs to find a new crew to fly  flight out of the next city.

Even if it has a spare plane it still needs to find a crew.

 

Most of the time it's cheaper to fly an empty plane than to cancel a flight. 

 

As far as your fog reason goes, the problem may have been fog in the city the plane was in before it was to make it's way to your city.

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Re: Flight Cancelled Due to Low Booking - Increase Notice Please

Top Contributor

@joeyxsamuels wrote:
As best as I can tell, the reason for these cancellations is due to low bookings on the flights I scheduled.  How can I determine this?  

Nope. Canceling flights because of low bookings may be a thing on a hub and spoke airline that flies from point A to B then back to A, but this does not work with Southwest. That plane needs to go from A to B to C to D during a single day. Canceling A to B because of low bookings would screw up the entire rest of the day. Yes, it's possible a plane could be substituted in later in the day at point C or D, but again, that creates other problems (robbing Peter to pay Paul) and it's far easier and cheaper to just fly the original plane on the original route.

 

One legitimate reason slightly related to the idea of canceling low booking flights is that it is possible another flight had an equipment problem and after looking at the overall impact created and determining the least amount of pain, a plane was taken from one route and moved to cover for the one with an equipment problem. I have no proof that this happens, just an idea. There could also be more of this with Southwest having to make do with fewer planes than it has previously had. But the idea that a perfectly good plane is left sitting because only a few people booked it is ridiculous.

 

Weather could have been a problem, but perhaps at an earlier airport, even 2 or 3 stops before yours, or even the day before. Looking at the departure board for one airport does not provide a complete picture of all the possible impacts. 

 

--TheMiddleSeat

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Re: Flight Cancelled Due to Low Booking - Increase Notice Please

Active Member

I'm actually curious about this - I recently completed a trip to and from Florida. Due to the circumstances of being on a cruise with no internet access, I had to check into my return flights less than 12 hours before takeoff. I was prepared be in the Cs for my flights, and I was for my flight from FLL to MDW, but to my surprise I was in the As for my connecting flight from MDW to PHL. When boarding started, an announcement was made that there was plenty of room on the flight as there were only 60 people scheduled to board - everyone was in A group, no Bs or Cs. It was really nice, but definitely the least populated flight I have ever been on to date. Because of this, I was interested to know if Southwest would ever cancel a flight due to low turnout - I'm happy to hear that they won't!

 

--Jessica

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Re: Flight Cancelled Due to Low Booking - Increase Notice Please

Rising Star

I make the LAX to SFO on a regular basis. The flights are either full or pretty close. 

 

Interesting point of view. 


SWA Passenger, Community Champion