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The last time Southwest Airlines was prominently in the news, it was for a tragic reason. A plane engine exploded in April 2018 on a Southwest flight from New York to the airline’s home base of Dallas, killing one and injuring seven. The reasons for which Southwest are currently making headlines, nearly a year on from an incident that at least temporarily tarnished the airline’s image, are much less morbid, but they’re mostly not good.
For starters, Southwest is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with the mechanics’ union Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA). Southwest alleges that mechanics are deliberately making repairs to the airline’s fleet much more slowly than they previously have. Although Southwest is no stranger to taking its disputes with its mechanics to court, this is the first time that a conflict of this nature has impacted travelers.
Last week, Southwest canceled and delayed significantly more flights than normal for the airline. As the week came to a close, the AMFA had barred hundreds of the airline’s planes from flying for mechanical reasons. One report says that the AMFA removed nearly six times as many planes as usual from Southwest usage — and that this move led directly to nearly hundreds of thousands of Southwest customers experiencing delays or cancelations.
Although the Southwest-AMFA battle’s effects were exaggerated last week, cancelations and delays have been impacting customers for close to a month. The Dallas News compares the current situation to one that occurred with American Airlines two years ago. In that debate, American Airlines’ pilots resisted working, and their union was eventually found the legally liable party — and had to pay nearly $50 million in damages. Money certainly lies at the heart of this issue: Southwest’s current CEO claims that its current AMFA fight is costing it millions of dollars per week.
Despite the chaos that the Southwest-AMFA battle is causing, this fight is not the only reason that Southwest is in the news. The airline recently launched a new flight route that already has people talking, even as cancelations and delays are plaguing the company. On March 17, the airline plans to make its first flight from Oakland International Airport (OAK) to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu (HNL). On April 7, flights from OAK to Kahului Airport (OGG) in Maui will follow.
Although it is entirely possible that cancelation and delays stemming from the AMFA dispute will still be impacting Southwest when these routes launch, many travelers are excited at the prospect of reasonably-priced Hawaii fares. For example, Southwest flights from McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas to Hawaii (with a stopover at OAK) are now running as low as $138. Southwest’s CEO has suggested that the airline may soon add a LAS-HNL direct flight in due time.
With its new Hawaii-bound itineraries and ongoing legal battles, travelers will have to choose: is it worthwhile to fly Southwest for cheap fares even as the company struggles to pleas customers? Let us know what you think in the comments.