Pooja Dubey, 25, became a cheerleader for Southwest during college, when she was relying on it to get back and forth from school in New Orleans to her home in the Bay Area. She started following TikTok videos of people dancing on Southwest flights, or of the airline surprising travelers who’d just gotten engaged.
Ms. Dubey’s travel wasn’t always entirely smooth, but she said she had a high tolerance for logistical turbulence that came at a reasonable price. Even this week, as she followed the news about the airline’s epic spiral, she booked a new Southwest flight. She’s planning to go to Maui on vacation in February. The flight was just $150, with use of a voucher she got because of travel complaints this past summer.
As more evidence of Ms. Dubey’s turbulence tolerance, take her experience with Spirit, another budget airline she loves, earlier this year. In May, she went to New Orleans for its Jazz and Heritage Festival. She arrived at the airport about an hour before her flight and found out she’d been rebooked, with no notice, on a different flight six hours later. Ms. Dubey wasn’t fazed. She sat in the airport writing an essay, watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and eating Auntie Anne’s.
“I know I’m signing myself up for the chaos, but that’s part of it,” she said. “It makes for a good story.”
The era of budget air travel has enabled a certain kind of nonstop vacationing: cheap flights supporting weekend jaunts in search of Instagram-worthy content. Millennials spend some 35 days a year traveling, nearly 10 days more than older Americans. Some airline loyalists maintain that frequent travel means accepting a certain level of mayhem. And even when people experience delays or cancellations, they’re still likely to select the cheapest option when booking their next flight. (#Southwestmeltdown memories might fade quickly, for some, in the face of $150 tickets to Hawaii.)
“You have to become unattached to your plan if you’re traveling in the Midwest in the winter,” said Alicia Fierro, 39, another influencer who has worked with Southwest.
Ms. Fierro would know. Her own holiday plans were dashed by this week’s upheaval. She was supposed to fly from Chicago to Florida to spend Christmas with her best friends. She kept delaying the travel, hoping the weather would clear up. It didn’t. She decided to “accept fate,” cancel her plans proactively and spend Christmas on her own. She used credit from that flight to book a trip to Phoenix in February on Southwest.