Remember how every article written about Southwest used to be a love (luv?) letter? Not anymore.
The WSJ (sorry, registration req’d) looks at the array of ills facing the airline, not least of which is that many of their competitors have lowered their costs through bankruptcy, leaving the carrier with some of the highest labor costs in the business. Plus, their so-called no frills competitors have added frills, leaving Southwest to look much more like a — GASP! — legacy carrier. (sort of). They also knock the airline for being slow to respond when things started to go bad, though they’ve now announced the end of some of their longer haul flights (costly to run and not necessarily profitable at $99 each way), make some overtures toward adding TV/internet on their flights, and cut back on some of their expansion plans.
But the point does seem to be valid that they were slow to respond to changes in the industry. Their lack of amenities no longer seems cute when AirTran, Frontier and JetBlue all have either seatback TV or satellite radio. Their ATA acquisition probably took their eye off the ball for a bit as well. I’m certain they’ll be fine, but I’ve noticed over the past few days that articles about airlines always claim that no matter what is happening in the industry is killing the airlines. Terrorism? Passengers stay home Oil prices? Fares go up and passengers stay home. Competition? Prices go down. Too many seats? Prices go down. Too few seats? Causes delays. Summer travel boom? Causes delays. Slow periods stink and so do busy periods. Ugh.