Last Wednesday my Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Indianapolis was delayed more than three hours due to inclement weather... in Newark. And since weather-related delays and other scheduling aggravations "beyond the airline's control" aren't subject to reimbursement, my decision to take a plane (as opposed to a faster Greyhound bus!) looks a little silly.
But. Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't write them and say that it actually is in their power to control the weather -- or at least, how the weather affects my flight. They, after all, are the ones who decided to fly their planes all over the country instead of back and forth between destinations. This, in fact, is part of their business model: instead of running commuter flights back and forth between cities like the major carriers, they minimize the number of gates they have to maintain by running multi-stop flights across the country (eg Newark-Midway-Indianapolis). Unfortunately, this model greatly increases the risk of weather-related delays: whereas a back-and-forth commuter flight will suffer weather delays only when either a passenger's origination or destination have bad weather, a multistop Southwest flight can be delayed by bad weather in any of the cities it hits. And since delays "beyond the airline's control" aren't eligible for compensation, this risk is passed on directly to the passenger.