Southwest Airlines’ on-time performance sinks, passengers fume


If your last Southwest Airlines flight was late, you are not alone.

On-time performance of the nation’s largest domestic carrier has deteriorated over the past year, dropping from 81% of all flights arriving on time in 2013 to 70% for the first five months of 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Southwest says the drop in its on-time rate was caused by scheduling too many flights at the most popular takeoff times. To squeeze in the extra flights, Southwest began last year to shorten the time set aside for flying and for loading and unloading passengers.


That tactic left little cushion for the airline to keep on schedule in the event of unforeseen problems, such as foul weather.

“We wouldn’t have made these changes if we thought it would have had this kind of impact,” said Steve Hozdulick, senior director of operational performance for the airline.

To fix the problem, Hozdulick said, Southwest is adding more cushion time to the schedule, starting in August, in an effort to improve its on-time rate to about 83% by the end of August.

Recent flight delays are down to 15 to 25 minutes, he said.

That may not appease passengers on Southwest’s late flights.

“Thanks @SouthwestAir for making it so I get home five hours late!!! I will never cheat on @Delta again!” Bess Pearson, a Southwest passenger from Tennessee, said in a Twitter post last week.

On Facebook, Steve Althoff of Florida, said: “I hate Southwest Airlines. 2 hours late and no plane in sight.”

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.