Cranky on the Web: Southwest Stretches Its Fleet

Cranky on the Web, Southwest

Southwest Tries to Do More With Less Because of a Temporary Aircraft ShortageSkift
Last Saturday my wife and kids took a flight from LA to Indy with a painfully-early 5:25am departure time. Why does that flight even exist? Well, when Southwest did the mass retirement of its 737-300s last year, it had to stretch its remaining fleet to cover as much flying as possible. That meant extending the definition of what’s considered too early or too late. Oddly, Southwest still hasn’t bothered with redeyes, something that would likely have solved this problem in a better way. So instead we see some really ugly flight times. New aircraft deliveries can’t come soon enough….

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13 comments on “Cranky on the Web: Southwest Stretches Its Fleet

  1. To me, “redeye” means an overnight flight, such as SFO to EWR, departing at, e.g. 11:30 pm Pacific time and arriving around 7 am Eastern time. United used to have (and probably still does) a batch of such eastbound flights departing SFO around midnight.
    SWA doesn’t do much transcon flying compared to the Big Three — Cranky, were you suggesting that they could add longer flights like these, or instead just extend their mostly-short-haul flying later into the evening?

    1. Anthony – You’d be surprised at how many flights Southwest has that could work as a redeye. If you have 3+ hours in the air (better with 4) and a 2 hour time change, then you can make it work. And Southwest has a lot of those.

    2. we have heard it is the dispatch system that is the hold up this time on the late night flying stuff. In effect the system has to shut down at 0300ish and begin the next days operations at that time. Still more tech stuff to update behind the scenes to make it all work.

  2. The old “we’ve never done it that way” excuse for not offering redeye flights sure doesn’t fit the maverick Southwest Airlines culture image. I queried this in their website discussion blog a while back, but there is never a direct explanation given, other than “wnditw.” Thanks Captain Obvious! The question is, why not? To take one of the many 5-6am flights, one has to get up at 2am to shower, dress, drive to the airport, park, check in and get to the gate. On the other end, the 8:30pm departure from DEN to ATL or BWI gets you in around 1:30am and the 9:55pm from DEN to MDW about the same. Know what it’s like going to the parking lot or CTA in Chicago at 1:55 in the morning? If all goes well, you get to your destination and bed around 3am. Not good. This plan to stretch fleet utilization was not done from the standpoint of the traveler. You probably would not find many WN employees on those trips, especially the brass. But hey, as the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark said, “top men are working on this project.”

      1. Thanks Oliver, for digging that out. I’m taking the bottom line as: “There is an effort underway to have our scheduling system and all the downstream applications support selling redeye flying, but as of the moment we don’t have any immediate plans to start offering anything along these lines at the moment.”

        *”The moment” *was in 2015 before the Amadeus system came onboard, which would have made the tech side even easier. This was still, from my perspective, a Captain Obvious response that doesn’t answer the “why not”
        question. Do they just love the “o: dark thirty” stuff?

    1. Funny thing, they fly plenty of “red-eye” flights on sports charters (Primarily NCAA), but their original “cheap” reservations system was very limited! It’s costs them in the long run:
      1. unable to charge accessorial fees – that’s why they don’t charge bag fees
      2. PNRs could not have more than 4 passengers, making group travel a nightmare
      3. System unable to handle date change on redeye flight

      This has created lots of problems, but they all should be fixed by now. It’s probably more of a cultural thing now.

  3. Personally I don’t mind early morning departures going east, because you’re going to have to adjust to the time zone at some point anyways. Just think of your 5:25am departure to Indy as being 8:25am eastern time. Plus, no traffic heading to the airport, and fewer delayed flights.

  4. It seems to me that Southwest isn’t prepared to do these redeye flights just yet, and that this will put more strain on there whole network, until they get a computer system that can handle it.

    1. @Paul..the new computer system can handle scheduling red-eyes. I think SWA just doesn’t want to consider it yet. It may be because of the F/A contract. I retired a year ago as a F/A and our contract at that time did not include much about Red-eye flights. Not sure how the contract stands today.

  5. Curious how there going to handle Hawaii. Traditionally most eastbound flight from there leave late evening with arrivals in LAX or SFO in the early morning.

    1. Dave – Actually, the traditional West Coast-Hawai’i flow was morning westbound, turning around in the afternoon and getting back in the evening. I would assume Southwest will stick to that upon start-up.

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