Airlines have to play the long game when it comes to route planning, staffing and equipment needs. You can move planes from one airport to another and change the frequency of your routes, but you can’t spin up new planes right away.
Airlines, like their competitors, had to go into survival mode. That meant suspending almost any expense that could be suspended. This did not include layoffs, and while Southwest has never taken layoffs, it was meant to encourage some staff to retire early.
In the field, this is a difficult problem, but one that is solvable. Customer his service representatives, gate his agents, or baggage handlers need to be trained, but their inexperience creates problems that airlines can deal with.
The same goes for flight attendants. It’s a tough job with more than serving drinks and snacks, but after weeks of training, you can train a new flight attendant. (And a tightening economy may make that difficult task a little easier.
Even an aircraft shortage can be overcome as competing airlines cancel orders and many firms tighten spending. What cannot be overcome is the pilot shortage, which the Southwest has It’s a problem.
Southwest needs a pilot
Prices will go up if airlines don’t have enough capacity to meet demand. CEO Bob Jordan has admitted that the airline does not have available seat miles (ASM) to meet customer demand for tickets.
“If we could fly all the aircraft, that is, if we had enough pilots to fly the aircraft on site, the capacity or ASM percentage would be about 5%, 6%, 7%, 8% higher today this year. It’s more a factor of the mix of short, medium and long haul flights,” he said during an airline conference. Third Quarter Financial Results Announcement.
After earnings were reported, Jordan was more outspoken during his appearance on CNBC.
He said the airline was “trying to make money again with reduced capacity” and blamed the pilot shortage.
Basically, Southwest doesn’t have the pilots needed to place the plane, so it costs more to fly.
The Southwest Has Good (and Bad) News
Flying an airplane requires years of training and experience. Southwest Airlines’ plans have been set back as the pandemic has halted or at least suspended the training of many who have lost pilots and would-be pilots. However, airlines are dealing with these issues.
“We are hiring 1,200 pilots this year and will be hiring 2,100 pilots on schedule next year. We’re on our way,” Jordan said on a conference call. .
That’s good news for the 2023 holiday season, but it won’t do you any good for anyone traveling this year. That’s what the newly promoted CEO has tackled.
“Going forward, we are confident that we will have capacity to meet demand seasonally,” he added.
Southwest continues to have an aggressive hiring/training plan.
“Our pilot recruitment and training continues to be a pace factor for our growth moving forward. The training program for getting on board is robust — the maximum training capacity for pilots, and it will continue through 2023,” he shared.