SWA Woes

I start making plans for skiing in November. I’ll watch the snow reports and predictions. I make reservations a month in advance. When I do all this, I do not expect to have to remake them at the last minute or in the last hours. Such was the case with our ski vacation this year.

In January, I made reservations with Southwest to fly out to Seattle early on the morning of the February 7th. It was the only way that we could make a connecting flight to Kelowna, BC which leaves at 2:20 pm. On the morning of the 6th, I had checked us into the flights. At 5:00 pm Saturday night, we were in the midst of packing when Thea got a text from Southwest stating that the flight was cancelled due to maintenance.

Here’s where someone has to explain to me how a corporation with 771 737’s can’t get one to the middle of the country within twelve hours.

Okay, our flight’s cancelled. Now what? Well, her text included a link. All that the link gave us was a web page where we couldn’t select any flights for our Sunday departure. Nothing at all. Okay, but the web page gives us a phone number. We call it and talk to a very apologetic agent who tells us over and over again that she’s sorry. It looks like the earliest we can now fly out is on Monday morning. There are no Sunday flights that we can be added to. We ask about stand-by. “I’m sorry.” What if we leave right now? “I’m sorry.” What if we fly out of Dallas? “I’m sorry.” What if we use another airline? “I’m sorry.” We’ve got twenty hours to make a connecting flight in Seattle and there’s no way for you to get us there sooner than forty-six hours from now? “I’m sorry.” Well, hold those reservations for Monday morning and we’ll get back to you.

I planned everything a month ago for us to get to Big White, get a good night’s sleep and start skiing Monday morning. I wan’t about to give up a full day’s worth of vacation without a fight.

Our connecting flight is with AlaskaAir. That agent doesn’t say, “I’m sorry.” She says, “Let me see what I can do.” There’s some key clicking and quiet time before she comes back. She finds flights on Air Canada, SkyWest, Delta, and even SWA but she can’t book any of those or see if there are seats. She gives us flight numbers and times. None of them connect to the 2:20 pm flight from Seattle to Kelowna. She does have room on an AlaskaAir flight leaving at 4:00 pm on Sunday which puts us in Kelowna, BC at 12:15 am Monday. It’s the best she can find. But she’ll waive the ‘change’ charge, seat us in preferred seating, and credit us with a $75 discount on future flights.

Thea and I had earlier been speaking about how fortunate we were to be able to afford things like vacations. And I had just read an MSN article on how most households couldn’t afford to have a $1000 emergency. Those two thoughts combined because that’s what the end result of our scrambling resulted in. That and it would delay our arrival at the Inn at Big White. Which meant that my next call was to reschedule our Airport-to-hotel taxi service. “No Worries.” from them. That was actually the easiest call of the night. We called Southwest back and cancelled our outgoing Monday reservations and confirmed our return flight.

So now instead of a morning flight out and a good night’s sleep, we have an afternoon flight out, a five hour layover in Seattle and arrival at the hotel at 1:30 am. But it’s better than losing a whole day skiing.

Before we left on Sunday afternoon, I wrote a complaint to Southwest. All that I got back from them was that flights get cancelled and we notify you how you ask us to. But that’s not what’s upsetting. It’s that they expect us to be okay with them cancelling a flight and then being notified that we need to deal with it. If the highway patrol closes a road, they put up a detour. A suggested route that may not be as convenient but will still get you there. I feel like Southwest closed the road but expects us to be okay waiting in the car for a full day.

Maybe I should just drop it. But I’m not ready to. I’m going to have to convince myself that they did all that they could. Right now, I don’t believe it.


  1. Richard R. Barron

    >>explain to me how a corporation with 771 737’s can’t get one<< Because they're all full. A Boeing 737-8xx, -9xx, etc., is a $60M airplane, which means if one isn't flying, it's costing them a fortune. No airline can keep spare jets in hangers. Also for what it's worth, Southwest was in deep crisis when I flew home from Baltimore in December. Weather had grounded dozens of flights. But they worked with me as best they could, and I got home without having to spend the night in an airport.

  2. Wil C. Fry

    I don’t remember which airline it was, but Marline and I once waited three hours because the plane was still in the hangar. I could see the plane. It wasn’t being worked on or being fueled. It just hadn’t been towed over from the hangar. And they weren’t about to do it either. So we just sat there. Of course, they didn’t say “three hours”. They said “a few minutes”, and then “a few more minutes” and then “a little while longer”, repeatedly, for three hours.

    Also, I’ve always wondered about this: with hotels, even if I reserve months in advance, I don’t pay until I arrive. And I can cancel any time without charge, up until a specified time period (often 24 hours in advance). But with airlines, I pay the instant I get the ticket, and have a huge fee if I cancel (or pay extra for insurance to avoid the cancellation fee). Makes me appreciate hotels a little bit more.


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