Recently, Southwest Airlines faced a rash of flight cancellations, causing their stock to tumble tremendously. Is this a sign of things to come in the discount travel industry?

Travel Noire recently posed whether so-called “budget travel” was a fading trend in a post-COVID world. Our findings revealed that “even if the days of $15 seats are behind us, budget travel will still be available…just in a different form.”

The question of whether the discount travel industry can survive Southwest Airlines’ rash of cancellations was, once again, raised when their stocks began to tumble. The New York Times reported that the cancellations were due to a rash of bad weather and IROPs (irregular operations) that arose as a result. The outlet also took great pains to report that despite the assertions of conservative lawmakers and “anti-vaxxers,” the cancellations had nothing to do with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Casey Murray, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, dismissed the idea that pilots had called in sick to protest the company’s vaccine mandate, though the union has asked a court to prevent Southwest from enforcing that requirement. “Pilots called in sick at a normal rate this weekend, he said,” reported the Times.

Newsweek, too, pointed out that as the airlines’ operations continue to return to normal, the perceived looming death knell for the discount airline industry continues to dissipate. What will potentially suffer, however, is Southwest Airlines’ top airline quality ranking.

“Southwest has been a market leader in terms of low complaint rates to the US Department of Transportation, so they have a fair degree of latitude in the AQR rankings for their complaint and on-time performance numbers to dip for a single month,” said Daniel Burnham, a member operations specialist with Scott’s Cheap Flights. Burnham, however, questions whether this will negatively impact the company overall.