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Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

cre1997
New Arrival

Dear Southwest Airlines,

 

I am writing to address one of the most deplorable customer service experiences I have encountered in my years of flying. I was originally trying to handle the matter or address my complaints to the service agents via telephone, however, it’s a continual hold that will never reach an agent normally.

 

I was booked for a flight to Cleveland on Thursday at February 17, 2022 at 8:45am leaving from Chicago on Flight #1811 at Midway Airport. The previous day Chicago had temperatures nearing 50 but the next day there was a storm expected around 3pm. I was relieved because I would be traveling much earlier and Cleveland was in the clear as well for our 8:45 flight. I then received a cancelation notice 18 hours before the flight. I called and had to sit on hold for hours to receive help to no avail. My friend and I tried to rebook and we had to go through such a complex and challenging process to find a flight together since the apps and website do not tell you how many seats are available with changing a flight after cancelation vs the information given at booking.

We were then booked for Flight #2527 at 2:50pm on the same day February 17th. I was totally confused on why SW would cancel a flight WITHOUT weather conditions and book those passengers on a flight with expected snow. I tried to trust the process because we aren’t the experts and I have flown in snow before with plane de-icing, etc. We were told nothing, no cancelation notifications or airport board or gate changes. The agent announced (without care or concern) a cancelation due to expected weather conditions and ended the communication by saying “that’s all I have”. Other airlines were still boarding, safety is first, so I was patient. We soon received a text informing us that our “SWA Flight 2527 on Feb 17 from MDW is cancelled.”

 

There was no apology, concern or any customer service given to everyone who had to be rebooked from a flight in CLEAR weather, to PURPOSELY rebook us on a flight that they knew would be canceled. Another agent then lied, in the information age, and said the Cleveland airport was closed and everyone was on their phones looking at planes landing at the airport.

 

I was automatically booked for a Sunday flight and my trip was ending on Monday. My trip was personal and I pre-planned for a full year. It was a trip I looked forward to as a single mom of a toddler who’s been stressed, depressed and balancing work and life. It was the 75th anniversary of the NBA and my life long dream of being there. I had the lodging booked and prepaid, purchased event tickets and had an opportunity of lifetime because a special ticket and experience was reserved for me and my friend and it took someone a great deal of effort to get access for me to have a needed break that would never be available in my lifetime again. And although my trip was leisure, I seen the faces of those trying to get to their jobs, spouses, families and sick loved ones. I understand weather and safety, but this one could’ve been avoided by flying us out during the initial flight without weather concerns. And even if it still resulted in a cancelation, the SERVICE to customers is detrimental with Customer Experience Management.  

 

I researched your company and found a customer service commitment with regulations of the Department of Transportation and was immediately disappointed all over again with how I/we was/were treated.

 

Southwest Airlines Customer Service Commitment:

  1. Notifying Customers of known delays, cancelations, and diversions (for flights within seven days of departure) If your flight experiences a delay of 30 minutes or more, is canceled, or diverted, we use an automated system to notify you within 30 minutes of our being made aware of such flight status change. Unless you opt out, you will be notified by email, voice, or text, depending on the selection made at the time the reservation was booked (voice notification is not available for international tickets). At the airport, including the boarding gate and Flight Information Display screens under our control, we will make every reasonable effort to notify you of the updated status of your flight within 30 minutes of our being made aware of such flight status change. For an international itinerary, if you do not provide contact information at the time of booking, you will not receive automated notifications. For changes to a flight that is more than seven days from departure, see Section 10 below.
  • We were not notified within 30 minutes and made aware of such flight status change until the time of the flight. There was no change on the flight status boards. We were told as we stood in line to board, understanding that something must be going wrong because no one started boarding us at the time confirmed. There was an “On Time” status the entire time. We were notified of the cancelation at 3:02pm, 12 minutes after the flight time.
  1. Delivering baggage on time We make every reasonable effort to load the items you entrust into our care onto the same plane you board and return them to you promptly at your destination. If delayed, we make every reasonable effort to return your luggage to you within 24 hours. If your luggage is delayed or lost for reasons outside of your control, you may file a mishandled baggage report at the airport and submit a claim for consideration of reimbursement of reasonable expenses you may have incurred. Southwest does not charge fees for the first and second checked bags (provided they are not oversize or overweight). If you paid an excess baggage fee to Southwest and your checked bag was delayed and not recovered, we refund the applicable fee(s) paid. See Southwest.com for more information on traveling with checked baggage.
  • After canceling the flight, they told us our bags were downstairs at baggage claim and were on the carousel. I wanted to book a train to go to my destination but I wanted to ensure I received the luggage first.
  • Upon arrival at baggage claim there were no bags and they asked us to wait because that it would take approximately 45 minutes. Understood, we waited. After an hour and a half, I inquired and they told me “oh no, this normally takes 2 hours”.
  • After 3 hours of waiting, everyone was frustrated, and I went to talk with the manager (Sarah). She did not even look my way, no eye contact, and said I will get to you according to the list I have. I went back into the baggage office and they indicated it normally takes 4 hours. The other staff member said the luggage is not in the building and is somewhere in the airport lot area because they were about to be boarded and there were hundreds of bags to sort through.
  • After 5 hours of sitting in baggage claim, I went and demanded that they find an answer for us. The desk attendant sent a message over the hand radio regarding the “canceled flight to Cleveland”, the respondent quoted “oh Cleveland, they are right downstairs, here with me”. She looked startled and said, my apologies. Five hours of additional wait time and the luggage was right down stairs and no one thought to go down there and help us. The luggage was completely dry and was in the building the entire time.
  • We were not offered water, pretzels, a snack, absolutely anything. We were unable to return to the main airport to eat, relax or shop because passengers had already exited due to the gate staff informing us that our luggage was ready. There is no food or refreshment vendor at baggage claim at Midway Airport. Southwest staff did not even offer us a drink ticket, miles for future travel, just attitude and lack of care.
  1. Meeting Customer needs during tarmac delays Onboard delays are situations we always try to avoid. However, if weather, gate-space limitations, visibility, airport conditions, mechanical problems, ATC requirements, or other uncontrollable circumstances cause a long onboard delay prior to takeoff or upon landing, we have adopted a Southwest Airlines Tarmac Delay Contingency Plan for those situations.
  • We were not given a contingency plan for the tarmac delay.
  1. Identifying the services to mitigate Customer inconveniences during irregular operations Southwest does its best to operate flights as scheduled. Sometimes, events beyond our control or situations we could not anticipate prevent us from doing so. In order to mitigate Customer inconveniences, we provide the following assistance in the event a flight is delayed, canceled, or diverted:
  • Rebooking on the next available Southwest flight(s) with seats available to your ticketed destination.
  • I looked up flights that we available and they did not reserve a seat for me.
  • A refund of the unused portion of your Southwest ticket. We do not pay for tickets on other airlines or absorb the difference between our fares and higher fares on other airlines. If circumstances within our control, such as aircraft “swaps,” cause you to miss the last possible flight (or connection) of the day to your destination, our Customer Service personnel have the authority to arrange at no additional cost to you:
  • Overnight lodging Rev #19-01 03/14/2019 II
  • I requested the service because I wanted to try to get on a flight the next day, the staff responsible for canceling and rebooking said this is not a service that SW offers.
  • Ground transportation to the overnight facility
  • Again, indicated that SW does not offer that service.

I hope these discussions serve as a way to improve, reorganize and properly service customers. Southwest’s business model has been used for decades by companies, non-profits and institutions of higher education. It’s my anticipation that Southwest Airlines can recover because the outcome can be costly for the company in midst of new and emerging airlines looking to take their chance as a leader in the travel industry.

10 REPLIES 10

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

TheMiddleSeat
Top Contributor

TLDR... flight cancelled due to weather.  I looked at sky and didn't see weather so I don't understand that planes fly all over the country and weather can affect cities that I do not travel to.

 

Yeah, it's not fun that your plans were affected, but these things happen.

 

Since this is a customer to customer forum you are welcome to submit your comments directly to Southwest.  Use the contact us link at the bottom of the page and send a message if you want.

 

--TheMiddleSeat

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

cre1997
New Arrival

Thank you, I did that as well... I just needed to air it to help release my frustration! 🤗

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

jksobonya
Rising Star

Your first mistake was assuming that because the weather was clear in both Chicago and Cleveland, you were good to go. Where was your plane coming from, and what was the weather conditions like there? I use FlightAware.com to track flights and the web site not only tells you all about your own flight, it tells you were your plane is coming from and where it's going after you land. It's very useful, I suggest you use it in the future. It gives you peace of mind (or not lol) when you can tell exactly where your flight is and if it's on time or not, where it is in the country, etc. 

 

Unfortunately, planning for "a full year" doesn't mean anything when you get to the day of your flight and there is really bad weather, a mechanical problem, an employee shortage, other flight delays which causes your flight crew to be delayed, or various other factors that could cause a flight to be delayed or cancelled. 

 

We are still clawing our way out of a pandemic and flights overall are still not "normal" yet - flights have been delayed and cancelled en masse and at random for 2 full years now. Your cancelled flight is not an exception to what we have been dealing with since 2020. 

 

To address just one of your many points --

 

  • We were not offered water, pretzels, a snack, absolutely anything. We were unable to return to the main airport to eat, relax or shop because passengers had already exited due to the gate staff informing us that our luggage was ready. There is no food or refreshment vendor at baggage claim at Midway Airport. Southwest staff did not even offer us a drink ticket, miles for future travel, just attitude and lack of care.

 

I'm not sure why you think Southwest is going to give you free food as you wait for your bags at baggage claim (although the 5 hour wait time is a bit ridiculous if true - and especially if your bags were there "the whole time" surely it would not have taken 5 hours to get them to a baggage claim carousal).

 

They are not entitled to give you any of what you claim (a drink ticket, really?).

 

However - if your flight was cancelled by Southwest and they did not put you on another flight (it's still unclear if you eventually took a flight or not) you should be refunded, and contacting Southwest and explaining the situation should rectify this. 

 

--Jessica

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

dfwskier
Top Contributor

@
  • There is no food or refreshment vendor at baggage claim at Midway Airport.  

Actually, there is. It is located under the escalator from baggage claim up to the TSA level. - opposite the elevators one can take to get to various parking garage levels.

The name Teodoras  comes to mind - but I am not certain of it. I've never set foot in the pace.

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

cre1997
New Arrival

Thank you. I’m from Chicago. I was there. It was closed. 

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

cre1997
New Arrival

My post is not about the cancellation but lies told and customer service. As a business manager, it’s something you do for customer relations. ALL of the complaints the passengers had combined made for a bad experience, not one in particular. Not saying one thing was our only problem but this post was about customer service, not requirements. And SW agreed so maybe you can talk with them about your opinions of leaving customers without care and justifying that. 

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

cre1997
New Arrival

And I hope you can confirm my allegations of our wait and experience since you work for SW Airlines and their policies verbatim. Always an expert. 

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

TheMiddleSeat
Top Contributor

@cre1997 wrote:

And I hope you can confirm my allegations of our wait and experience since you work for SW Airlines and their policies verbatim. Always an expert. 


No one in this thread works for Southwest.  As I said before...

Since this is a customer to customer forum you are welcome to submit your comments directly to Southwest.  Use the contact us link at the bottom of the page and send a message if you want.

 

--TheMiddleSeat

Re: Worst SW Travel & Cancellation Experience Ever

cre1997
New Arrival

That wasn’t a reply to you (I have sent my complaint to SW separately) and I understand that you all don’t work for southwest but because the responses are accusatory vs helpful so that was indicative of sarcasm.