challenges, travel

Southwest Shitshow

Today I am flying across country. From one cold front to another. Snow coverings to celebrate a white Christmas this year and frigid temps that call for warm blankets and toasty fires on the home front with my puppies. A welcome I gladly await but sadly have postponed it thanks to Southwest Airlines and their poor service.

I had been magically flying just above the clouds somewhere on the way to Denver, Colorado. It was a peaceful time of reflection. I was thinking of all the people I have in my life that are amazing yet missing those who aren’t with me this holiday season. As I was flying high I felt the presence of those I miss this year. It was almost like the clouds had names of loved ones gone too soon. At this point in the day there was a calm in the air. Not a worry in the world and I was looking forward to being home.

After landing in Denver, the trip home became a little more complex. Staffing shortages for Southwest Airlines were spiraling out of control for days and today things were supposed to be back on track. That was false. Insanity was lurking everywhere. Crying people everywhere. Cops patrolling gates which is not normal. Emotional outbursts at counters. Lines for days at every Southwest counter yet no supervisors in sight and guess what corporate is closed for the holiday!

The backlog and staff shortages caused rippling effects across the county but Denver was one of the most hard hit. The airline swears it was not poor planning on their part rather storm related issues but I beg to disagree. Plane after plane delayed or cancelled waiting on flight attendants to show up to staff a flight or pilots running out of time due to long delays and federal regulations. I have never seen planes sitting at a gate for hours waiting for staff to load the hundreds of people waiting to get on the plane. Most gates had no attendants either because all those who showed up for work didn’t appreciate the hounding of those waiting for a human to give an update.

Fast forward: many hours sitting and being shuffled gate to gate only to watch planes sit idle or get unloaded due to no staff, incomplete flight crew, or in my case over time limit pilots. It was pure insanity and I was in the midst of it. Then finally we load onto a plane at 8:45 pm and sit for over and hour. Babies crying. People getting anxious of why the plane hasn’t moved. The list goes on and on. Then they take us off the plane because the pilots are under the federal guidelines but their union contracts says they can’t fly. Oh the crowd went wild. Anger was written on many faces while tears well up in the eyes of tired and hungry kids. No hand out of water or blankets for those forced to sleep in the airport. No hotel voucher. Nothing. Just a long line to wait to be rebooked on the computers they kept crashing due to overload of resources. An absolute shit show. The picture above shows the length of every line at every Southwest kiosk. The wait was hours long.

Most rebook options were 2 days out at best, but my case was 12/31 some 6 days later with no access to my bag and no accommodations. Sounds amazing right?

That means you are stranded with no access to bags. Many in tears due to holiday gifts being in their checked bags. No options. Many just stuck. Some elderly couples were in disarray not knowing how to operate the internet swiftly or an app. It was unsettling to watch as folks crumbled around me. A young couple had tickets to Disneyland for first time with young kids and they wouldn’t get that money back or get the experience they had planned. 

I have never experienced such chaos in an airport. Southwest had people stranded for days. My inconvenience seemed minimal in comparison to those traveling with small children or even animals. I heard so many kids crying that just wanted to see Grandma or Grandpa for Christmas. It was awful. Now flip the script to other airlines. They are still flying and the chaos seems mild in comparison despite other airlines taking all the rebooks from Southwest’s incompetence.

In my case it cost me another $1,500 to get home and I had to split up with my child to even make that happen. I had to spent the night in an airport and I had no luggage or hygiene items. By the time I got off my cancelled flight no food places were open. Stores were closed for even water. I will definitely rethink my carryon accessories in the future to prepare for airport Armageddon. When I finally boarded my Delta flight Santa had delivered goodies to all their passengers. Mini stockings full of candy. What a treat and what amazing service. Southwest didn’t even give a bottle a water or blanket to those stranded. What an irony.

Signing off a little sleep deprived. A little annoyed. Most definitely disappointed in Southwest Airlines customer service. 4 hours to wait by phone. An app that crashed. Terminals frozen at the airport. Disconnects on phone and so on. Delta will get my money in the future even if it’s more expensive. Delta even gave out mini stocking goody bags to its passengers on my rebooked flight. So crazy.

I will pick up this with the how to get my bags from Southwest in the coming days.

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