Southwest Air is Lying to Us

Posted on 03/13/2022 in misc

The airlines have made it clear forever that once the door at the gate is closed, it’s closed. It doesn’t matter if you arrive at the gate 10 seconds after the gate agent closes the door, it’s too bad. You just missed your flight.

They are lying.

Yesterday, I was on Southwest Airlines Flight 1898 from Chicago Midway to Richmond. We boarded 90 minutes late because of the airline industry’s propensity to schedule pilots with the assumption that nothing ever goes wrong when flying. So our pilot was just taking off from Hartford, CT when he should have been doing pre-check stuff on our plane.

Our plane departed Midway at 4 PM. We were backing up away from the gate, and then the pilot announced we were returning to the gate to pick up two pilots that needed to deadhead to Richmond for a flight the next day. The pilot’s announcement sounded like these two pilots were literally at the door waiting for us, so no big deal.

After we had sat back at the gate for a few minutes, the pilot announced that the two hitchhiking pilots weren’t even at Midway airport. They were still en route to MDW on some other plane. In the end, we sat for about 45 additional minutes on a flight that was already 90 minutes late, after we freaking officially departed. I sensed our pilot was about as happy as his passengers.

So just remember the next time your flight is delayed, and you miss a connection by 1 minute that they are absolutely lying when they say they can’t open that door for you. Because they clearly can.

I just checked the Saturday MDW to RIC schedule. There are 55 non Southwest flights leaving after 4 PM, which was when we backed away from the gate. And that doesn’t even count the probably 100+ flights to Dulles or National that when combined with a 2-hour drive in a rental car could get the pilots to RIC from MDW. I don’t know if the airlines work together on this sort of stuff, but helping each other out with deadheading pilots if they have seats available should be something they do regularly. It really feels like somebody at Southwest decided we were already late, so our trip got sacrificed on the altar of corporate profits by making us sit there waiting for two pilots who were late because the airline makes pilots literally commute thousands of miles, versus having enough staff so that pilots aren’t changing planes with the rest of us.

Now that I’ve typed that, pilots not changing planes during the day, and not commuting via air, seems like it would be a win-win for pilots and passengers.

Also, if they wanted to do this, why not just keep us in the airport that extra 45 minutes? The flight was already late and another 45 minutes for an “operational” delay wouldn’t have seemed that unusual, and we’d all much happier in the airport than on the plane.

I choose to Fly Southwest because I expect better of them. Apparently, that faith was misplaced.

Click to comment, reply, or complain via email

I like hearing from readers, all three of you! Nobody comments on blogs anymore, and I'd rather not use Facebook or Twitter as a comment system so it's back to the email.