July 19, 2004

Blame it on the rain?  

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.

Ted  {July 27, 2004}

SWA actually has the 2nd lowest non mechanical delay rate of any of the top 10 major airlines. This could be for a variety of reasons. I am the last person to defend SWA. I personnally hate many of their business practices. So the probability of being delayed on SWA is lower for you overall. I suspect then that they think there business model achieves the lowest impact and risk to you.

I have many complaints about the so called weather delay tactic however of airlines. Often I think they use it as an excuse. I have not been able to find a comparative delay rate table on a market by market basis. I usually fly United and I have never had a weather delay out of Chicago. I find that astounding. But I fly high revenue business flights. So when ATC says 1 plane every 2 minutes instead of 1 plane every 1 minute due to weather my plane is pushed from the gate on time and a lower revenue flight waits.

paul  {July 27, 2004}

Interesting that SWA has a low delay rate... I have had a number of delayed flights with them. Where can you get this kind of information?

I have to admit though, I am a little bit concerned about what your motivations in posting here might be. Are you the Ted I think you are? The one for whom the new United discount flights are named?

Ted Airlines  {July 29, 2004}

Yes, it is me. UniTED had the best on-time arrival rate over the same period.

The information can be gathered from the FAA.

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