Locals and others recount nightmarish adventures of lost bags, delays and cancellations
What began as a bad weather adjustment for this holiday season turned into a systematic breakdown for Southwest Airlines, one of the nation’s largest airlines. Cancellations, delays, lost or misplaced bags were rampant, and many customers scooped up tickets from rival airlines to keep their vacation plans on track.
Thousands of bags and passengers are still scrambled and stranded at airports across the country. By Dec. 29, Chicago O’Hare had canceled his 35% of flights. Detroit Metro Airport has canceled his 16 flights in the last 24 hours. Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford Airport has canceled six flights.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Southwest Airlines hopes to return to normal operations on Friday after cutting about two-thirds of its schedule in recent days.
Dave Harvey, vice president of Southwest Business, said in an email to customers:
Evart’s Jackie Nichols finally made it to his destination, Denver, last week after being stuck in Chicago for two days.
“We picked up our packages in Denver, and there were two full luggage bins, and one gal was looking for them with a customer,” says Nichols.
A family traveling from Raleigh, NC to Houston had one scheduled layover. They arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport without incident.
But then “the next flight from Austin to Hobby Airport in Houston was delayed an hour and then another hour,” said John Tedesco.
Tedesco approached the counter to ask questions, when an attendant announced that the flight had been canceled due to staffing issues. Everyone was instructed to queue to rebook. Nearly 150 people lined up behind him in no time.
“I immediately pulled out my phone and told[my wife]Jenn that I had booked a rental car before the situation got worse and they ran out of rooms,” says Tedesco.
Luckily, Austin is just a two-hour drive from Houston. The gate agent said none of the next three flights departing that night were available for the family. refused the family’s request for a voucher for
After deciding to drive, they were denied access to their checked luggage and were told the luggage was on their next flight to Hobby Airport in Houston.
“We drive up and go to the Houston airport wanting to pick up our luggage. There’s a time line for the luggage office there,” Tedesco said.
My bag didn’t make it to my next flight, or the one after that. They were told to file a report and returned in the morning to ensure the bag was on the first flight.
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to fully compensate passengers for lost or damaged baggage. Southwest may have to pay, even if the passenger is reunited with their luggage. The airline must compensate the passenger for reasonable, verifiable and actual incidental costs that may be incurred while the passenger’s baggage is delayed.
“When you return to the hobby again the next day, the entire downstairs is covered in a sea of luggage,” said Tedesco. “The line at the baggage checkpoint is now over two hours.”
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The terminal was full of distraught people wandering around aimlessly looking for bags. Throughout the chaotic scene, Tedesco discovers that he has three bags in three different sections of the luggage pile.
“We will skip the line and leave with our luggage,” said Tedesco.
Between requesting cancellations and refunds, picking up packages and rescheduling flights, the family spent 4 of their 5 vacation days at the airport seeking answers.
“I started thinking about taking 20 hours to get home. My brother Mike says he saw 3 left the next day on Delta Airlines. I bought a ticket as soon as possible.” When we got to the delta, everything was fine and we could finally go home,” Tedesco said.
According to Southwest, weather and outdated systems contributed to nearly a week of cancellations.
“We were staffed and ready for the holiday weekend when many cities froze in extreme cold, creating challenges for all airlines,” Harvey said. “Due to numerous flight cancellations, ongoing work was undertaken to rebalance and restore the four interconnected networks (service maps, aircraft, pilots and flight attendants). We’ve shortened our schedule to do our best to get our crew back to base, our aircraft back on track, and our customers and their bags to their destinations.”
Airlines have launched specific sites for travelers affected by cancellations. Passengers can check flight status, rebook, and access frequently asked questions.
“I personally don’t want to do vacation trips again. I will never go to the Southwest,” Tedesco said. “I will do my best to avoid them in the future. I was at that airport four days out of that.Southwest Airlines is the Grinch who stole Christmas from millions of Americans this year.”
9&10 viewers share their travel nightmares (and tips)
“We flew home from Arizona a few years ago after Christmas. The schedule was changed.Then we flew to Grand Rapids.The 7 of us were in the same predicament.We arrived after midnight and nothing arrived.Probably to Denver. We were visiting my mother in Holland, Michigan for a few days and had to go clothes shopping. The package arrived at Tustin’s house five days after we landed.” – Marie Sherburne Mercier
“It was July of 1977 and I was traveling from San Diego to Muskegon to get married. I was in the Navy and was going to wear a uniform. I boarded Muskegon with no luggage. Rehearsals.” I went to the church to get back to the airport, checked my suitcase and uniform, and when it arrived, I changed into my uniform in the car and got to the church with five minutes to spare.” – Don Friesman
“When you board a carnival cruise fun ship, they often warn you that you won’t get your luggage back if you don’t tip them. I hope we only had $4.00 left.I did everything I could to make sure I got my luggage.A lot of bad things happened during the entire cruise.Never again – Carrie Kearns Rosales
“Thanks Southwest Airlines. I was on my way home from visiting my sister in New York. She and I had been to the Virgin Islands during that visit. My entire checked luggage (two bags) was in Traverse City. I was told at the desk, “Looks like they’ve arrived in Detroit..” When I spoke to a customer service representative, they said, “They never made a plane in New York. Problem” . Long story short, after explaining that I already knew I was lying, I was told “well, it’s not our responsibility to make sure the package reaches its destination” . Two weeks later I got one bag back which of course contained no gifts or souvenirs. – Amy Wiggins
“I spent a week in Paris and changed planes six times, and since I only used my carry-on backpack, it was no problem. If so, there is space for souvenirs.” – Brenda Leum
“Four years ago my package was lost in the Southwest. It was the worst experience. Nearly $1,000 was lost and only $250.00 was returned. I have never returned to them and never will.” I’m not going to.” – Tammy Bumstead