Southwest works differently than most of the other airlines. Instead of flights being available 330 days in advance, every so often they extend their calendar by a few months at a time. For peak travel times, such as Thanksgiving and the December holidays, knowing when the schedule is set to open is quite important. I always find the best fares for those peak dates by booking the moment the schedule opens. Fortunately, Southwest is never secretive with their schedule extension date and you can always check the dates in their Flight Schedules portion of the site.
I’ve been following their upcoming schedule extension date for awhile now since right now you can only book through Nov. 2, 2019. They have yet to extend their schedule past that date and I’ve been anxiously waiting to book my December holiday flights to some warm weather vacation destination.
In early April, the site stated that they’d be opening up their reservation schedule on May 23rd. This was for flights through Jan. 5, 2019.
Then later in the month, it moved to May 29th.
Now, it is showing a June 20th date!
While I’ve see the schedule dates change a few days here or there since being originally released, I do not ever recall seeing them push it back a full month!
What does this mean?
Southwest was hit hard with the 737 MAX aircrafts being grounded. Although other airlines within the US also operate their aircrafts, they did not have as much of an impact on their passengers. United actually did not have to cancel any flights, American a few, and Southwest a bunch. Southwest also operated the most of these 737 MAX planes (34 of them in their fleet). Since the actual date of when these aircrafts will be put back in service is unknown, Southwest has actually gone ahead and already proactively canceled their routes that were scheduled to fly these aircrafts through Aug. 5th.
Many passengers were affected by Southwest canceling flights last moment and some were even stranded at the airport. I know I personally was affected by this issue with a flight last April and the only option was to separate my family to fly on two different days. We also went from a non-stop flight to a layover. Since this itinerary absolutely did not work for my family, we ultimately canceled our Southwest flights.
I believe Southwest is holding off with extending their future schedule releases until more information is known about the 737 MAX aircrafts. If they continue to be out of service that will drastically change Southwest’s schedule (for the worse). Less flight options for particular routes could also mean higher demand which will drive up holiday pricing.
I definitely help Boeing gets their act together fast to allow Southwest to figure out what to do next. While this has a huge impact on Southwest’s bottom line it is also vastly affecting passengers. Waiting until June to book these peak dates is definitely not ideal and other carriers will continue to just get more expensive.
I personally have other flights booked on JetBlue just in case. Since my husband has JetBlue Mosaic status, we can always cancel our flight for no fee. While I am glad to have this backup plan, I know many other travelers are not able to take advantage of booking alternative flights “just in case”. Also, I’d prefer to fly Southwest since a family member will fly for free with the Southwest Companion Pass.
I hope that the June 20th date sticks and it does not get pushed back even further. Fingers crossed we can start booking our Southwest winter flights next month!