Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Southwest’s Meltdown Reminds Us We Must End Airlines’ Corporate Welfare | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on January 6, 2023

As stranded customers sought to reschedule their flights at the Nashville airport las week, Southwest employees called in the police to threaten customers with arrest if they didn’t immediately leave the area.

At the same time Southwest was voluntarily throwing toddlers off planes for eating incorrectly, it was receiving billions in taxpayer money as part of the federal government’s bailout of US airlines. This was the second bailout for Southwest in twenty years, an earlier bailout having come in 2001.

Ryan McMaken

Southwest Airlines experienced an enormous meltdown over the Christmas holiday week last month, cancelling thousands of flights, and losing track of—or outright losing—countless pieces of luggage. The airline was full of excuses, of course. As has become fashionable for government and corporate screw-ups, airline management attempted to blame covid for staffing problems. Southwest also blamed the weather. It’s amazing they didn’t also try to somehow blame “Russia’s war in Ukraine“—as the stock phrase now goes—as well. 

Yet, no other major airline had nearly the troubles that Southwest had in terms of either weather delays or staffing problems. Rather, the operational problems apparently stem from the fact that Southwest couldn’t be bothered with spending money to improve its own operating capabilities over the past decade. This occurred in spite of the fact that Southwest—like other major US airlines—collected billions of dollars in bailout funds. The company then reported large profits thanks in part to the funds stolen from taxpayers. 

Already, we’re hearing about lawsuits from paying customers, and fines from federal regulators. The only real solution, however—in addition to civil suits to recover real damages—lies in forcing Southwest to submit to more market competition. In addition to periodic bailouts from taxpayers, Southwest—like all US airlines—is protected from foreign competition by protectionist US laws. Combining these protections with bailouts—airlines got free money in both 2001 and 2020—we have an airline industry that’s complacent, wasteful, and prone to mistreating its customers. 

Mask Mandates and Southwest’s Mistreatment of its own Customers 

As stranded customers sought to reschedule their flights at the Nashville airport las week, Southwest employees called in the police to threaten customers with arrest if they didn’t immediately leave the area. The airline later claimed they were merely trying to “help” customers contact reservation agents elsewhere in the airport.

Resorting to police coercion, of course, is a tactic we’ve seen employed by airline employees on many occasions. Perhaps, most famously, United Airlines employees in 2017 called in police to beat up a paid customer, David Dao, who refused to give up his seat on a flight after airline employees mismanaged booking. Some conservatives rushed to defend the airline, even claiming that United Airlines was the victim, or insisting that the passenger should have just meekly followed orders.

That case became an interesting prelude to the debate over “following orders” from airline employees in light of covid mask mandates. Three years later, airlines rushed to unilaterally adopt covid mask mandates for customers, forcibly removing customers who didn’t comply with every minute detail.

This was done without federal mandates, mind you. In April of 2020, private airlines began imposing their own mask mandates, and airlines were free to adopt—or not adopt— their own mask policies well into 2021. Southwest was happy to jump on the mask bandwagon early, however, and adopted a mask policy even more stringent than those policies imposed by many governments. In Colorado, for example, the government-imposed mask mandate applied only to children 11 years of age, or older. Southwest, on the other hand, saw fit to impose a mask mandate on children as young as two years old. There was absolutely no scientific basis for this, of course, but Southwest enthusiastically enforced the mandate, even tightening restrictions in the summer of 2020. The airline stated that even those with verifiable medical conditions preventing masking would not be allowed to fly at all.

Airline employees proceeded to throw an autistic 3-year old and his family off a plane in one case. On another occasion a Southwest flight attendant booted a 2-year old and his mother because the small child was taking too long to eat his gummy bears. Although the mask policy was only private corporate policy at that time, Southwest’s stated policy was that customers not be given much leeway to eat: “we expect these instances to be very brief, and customers should put their face covering back on as soon as possible.”

Southwest Gets Billions in Taxpayer Money 

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One Response to “Southwest’s Meltdown Reminds Us We Must End Airlines’ Corporate Welfare | Mises Wire”

  1. Eric said

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

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