The recent Southwest Airlines plane grounding after a fuselage rupture is the company's biggest consumer perception setback since March 2008. Back then, inspection lapses of ageing Boeing 737s landed the US airline carrier in hot water with the Federal Aviation Administration, which fined it over $10 million and forced it to ground 8% of its fleet.
While Southwest Airlines usually retains some of the highest consumer perception scores in YouGov BrandIndex's airline sector, these incidents have the
potential of long-term brand damage because of its safety implications.
The 2008 crisis took six months before Southwest regained its consumer perception footing. When the inspection failures were made public and
many flights were deemed 'unsafe', Southwest's Buzz score sank fast from 20 to -20 in a matter of three weeks, while its Quality score was cut by more than half.
Perception of the airline's most recent situation has had a more immediate effect with Buzz scores tumbling from 26 in early April to -19 ten days later managing a slight rebound since. However, Southwest is still mired in negative perception. The carrier's Quality score, whose peak so far this year was 42 at the end of January, is now at 24.8.