Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Ever since the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded, airlines have been scrambling.

Southwest Airlines, which already had 34 of the planes in service, is the most affected.

Now that the MAX may be be out of service for a considerable part of the year, the cancelations at Southwest have mounted.

In the middle of it all are passengers.

On social media, they've become increasingly vocal and angry about what they see are unreasonable cancellations. 

A sample from Twitter: 

A sample from Facebook: 

If only #southwest treated all customers with respect. Cancelling flights, rebooking with 8 hour layovers and 8hr+ flights and then not offering to refund when we need to book a different flight to be home to see our 4 kids!!! Horrible customer service when trying to figure out our options. We understand having to take planes down because you want to make sure they are safe BUT Southwest should be bending over backwards to make things right. Not ever flying or recommending your airlines again. Keep digging your grave Southwest.

Another from Facebook:

Southwest's lack of planning should not have cost me a day's pay, a one day delay in arriving to my destination, a bad seat choice, and increased rental car fees.

Some might think it remarkable that an airline known for customer service is being accused of offering anything but.

Passengers are accusing Southwest of complete indifference to their plight, so I asked the airline for its perspective.

Its spokesman Chris Mainz told me: 

This situation is beyond our direct control.  In many ways, it's like dealing with an ATC/Weather scenario but for weeks on end. The duration is one major factor of what makes this situation highly unusual -- especially for our customers. We know it's been frustrating for our customers, but we have taken several steps to try to minimize the inconvenience and frustration.

He said the airline is offering "massive flexibility." It's created a special FAQ to answer passenger concerns. It says it's canceling flights five days out in order to give passengers as much time as it can to make alternative arrangements.

The airline admits, though, that 150 flights a day are being canceled.

It also concedes passenger anger has increased: 

We've seen unusually high volumes on our social channels, but this is expected. While the overall sentiment is negative, we have to remember that we carried over 120 million customers last year. So while it is high and it seems high, it's a small percentage of our customer base. And we would expect our customers to be disappointed any time their trips are disrupted. 

Disappointment is one thing. Rage is another.

All airlines operate with little margin for error.

When something so sudden hits, airlines are often unprepared operationally and therefore unprepared to offer passengers what they need.

Southwest is relatively lucky because its brand is still robust. 

How long, though, before a truly significant number of passengers turn their backs?

Of course, Southwest isn't alone in enduring this struggle. American Airlines, with 24 MAX planes, has said it's canceled 90 flights a day.

Moreover, choices for passengers are few. When four airlines own more than 80 percent of all seats in the U.S., grinning and bearing it is a necessary passenger trait.

But what if the MAX is grounded till the end of the year?

Published on: Apr 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.