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Southwest’s history of lobbying against high-speed rail surfaces in wake of flight cancellation fiasco

'Nearly every flight that’s three hours or less is a transportation policy failure.'


Jacob Seitz


Posted on Dec 28, 2022

After Southwest Airlines canceled over half of its flights for yet another day, the airline is facing growing scrutiny for lobbying against a transportation rival: trains.

A Twitter user pointed out that the company has spent years lobbying against high-speed rail in Texas.

“All I can think about with this Southwest fiasco going on is how they’ve successfully lobbied against high-speed rail in the state of Texas because flights between major Texas cities make up a good portion of their profits,” @dianelyssa said. “Nearly every flight that’s three hours or less is a transportation policy failure.”

Southwest has a long history of lobbying against high-speed rail in Texas, a state with major cities that the airline connects with short flights.

Southwest lobbied against a high-speed rail proposal in Texas in the early 1990’s, saying that “the American reality is that high-speed rail will be viable in Texas only by destroying the convenient and inexpensive transportation service the airlines now provide.”

After the effort to bring a high-speed rail project to Texas failed, a 1995 article in the Journal of Air Law and Commerce posited that “the airlines threatened most severely [by rail travel], therefore, are those that serve this short-to-medium distance market, such as Southwest Airlines.”

Southwest’s meltdown over the holiday weekend started on Friday, as winter weather rolled across the country, pounding the Midwest with snow and brutal cold and freezing the Northeast. On Wednesday, more than half of Southwest flights were canceled. The company has already cancelled 58 percent of tomorrow’s flights.

The disruptions have attracted scrutiny from the federal government.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told ABC News that the cancellations of Southwest flights are a “shocking and unacceptable level of disruption.”

The cancellations have led people online to criticize Southwest’s longtime anti-rail stance in Texas, where it is based.

A redditor wrote that they have “0% sympathy” for Southwest’s plight due to its years-long efforts to lobby against high-speed rail.

“It’s nuts that Southwest has done nearly everything to kill high-speed rail in this country to provide us with this level of convenience,” @the_transit_guy tweeted.

“I bet everyone’s happy now that Southwest Airlines succeeded in blocking high-speed rail,” another user said.

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*First Published: Dec 28, 2022, 6:05 pm CST