Not that it would really affect them all that much because after all they have a fleet of planes so they could fly above it all, but when that flood comes, Southwest Airlines is not invited onto my ark. Or maybe I’ll handle their travel arrangements the way they handled mine.
So my husband and I flew to Baltimore to see our home team play at Camden Yards. It was a great weekend. We met friends, saw two ball games; the weather was great. I really enjoyed myself. That was until I arrived at the airport, or the Southwest terminal to be specific. We got to the terminal an hour and a half early, which should have been plenty of time, but when we got there, there was a mass of people standing around the counter. People were not happy. Someone told me that the flight was overbooked. I waited in line anyway because I had my ticket after all.
Whenever I have flown before and a flight was overbooked on any other airline, they asked for volunteers and offer free tickets and a seat on another flight. I wouldn’t be doing that today because my young son was home with my mother and I needed to relieve her, two full days with a toddler was probably pushing her physical limits.
Anyway, as I near the counter I begin to hear bits and pieces of other people’s complaints and I come to realize ALL Southwest’s flights back home are overbooked. Finally I get to the counter and get to ask my questions. Mind you it is about 3:00 Sunday afternoon.
“When is the next flight home?”
“At 7:00 but it is over capacity as well.”
“Okay, so when is the next one?”
“10:00 but it is full too.”
“Okay, so when is the next flight home that is NOT overbooked.”
“Are you shitting me?”
“No Mam. The soonest we can get you on a flight is Tuesday.”
“Have you called the other airlines to see if you can get us on one of their flights?”
“We don’t do that Mam.”
“You don’t DO that?”
“No Mam we don’t.”
“So you expect me to be happy with you putting us up in a hotel at the airport for TWO nights while my son is at home alone with no one to watch him?”
“We can’t put you up in a hotel either Mam.”
“Well what CAN you do?”
“We will put you on Tuesday afternoon’s flight Mam.”
“And what will I do in the meantime?”
“I don’t know Mam.”
“Well I have a two year old I need to get home to so you need to figure it out.”
At this point my husband gets on the phone with Delta to see if they can get us home, while I continue to argue with Southwest. My plan is if I can get a flight on another airline, I’ll make Southwest pay for that ticket. Come to find out they won’t do that either.
They will let us sleep in the terminal for TWO DAYS. Or, they will refund our money and suggest that we drive home. I live over 14 hours from the Baltimore airport and my mother needs to leave my house by 10:00 tonight. I can’t make the drive home by then even if I was willing too, which I am not,
“So you can’t get me home. You won’t put me up in a hotel. You’ll refund my money, but that isn’t enough to get me on another airline this last minute. This is disgusting! I bought a ticket to be on this flight, why the hell am I unable to get on it or any other flight in the next two days?”
“Well Mam, Southwest overbooks every flight by a certain percentage because we don’t penalize people for missing their flights. We allow our customers to fly on another flight out without any surcharge. Since many people just don’t show up, we need to over book all our flights to assure we fly as close to full as possible. Sometimes, if everyone shows up, that means some people can’t get on that flight.”
“So when you were booking flights during baseball season out of the city of the World Series Champions to Baltimore, on a weekend when they were playing in Baltimore and all your flights OUT were filled, it didn’t occur to you that all those people would actually need to get home?”
“Well we don’t book our flights that way Mam.”
“So basically Southwest is in the lottery business.”
“Excuse me Mam?”
“Well see, I thought when I handed over my money for a roundtrip ticket to Baltimore that I was actually buying a ticket to get me to Baltimore AND back. But what you are telling me is that I bought the CHANCE to get to Baltimore and back. That wasn’t disclosed when I bought my tickets. And quite frankly, it isn’t acceptable. You are not going to penalize me because someone else may not have shown up for a flight and you don’t want to lose the money.”
“Mam, you aren’t penalized. You also can use your ticket on another flight.”
“Excuse me Miss, but being bumped off a flight I already paid for and having to spend TWO nights in the airport waiting for one you didn’t overbook, IS being penalized. Especially when I have a two year old at home. Are you going to pay for his babysitter?”
“Didn’t think so.” Did I mention she was pregnant? Well she was, so I went on to explain to her that once her baby was born, if she found herself standing in an airport expecting to be on a plane that was sitting on the tarmac, she would be as upset as I was if her baby was home and she and her husband were stranded for two days. “So what do you think I should do about the fact I have a baby at home that in six hours will have no one to watch him?”
“I don’t know Mam.”
“Well I do. You are getting me home tonight. I don’t care if you put me on that plane, the next one, or one of the other airlines that I have already confirmed has available seats. If I have to talk to the CEO of Southwest himself and have him come pick me up in his private jet, you WILL honor my ticket and get me home tonight!”
In the end, despite the fact that I saw at least three other parties including one of 11 people take their refund and go rent a car to drive over 14 hours to get home, I was on that flight, the one for which I had bought a ticket, the one sitting at the gate. So was my husband. We sat apart, but we were both on the plane. The kicker? No one got off so we could get on. I sat next to a lovely woman and her daughter who had been on the plane since it took off from Chicago. When we got into the discussion, she told me that they had never so much as made an announcement asking for a volunteer to get off the plane. Not once in the hour they’d been sitting there dealing with more than 30 disgruntled and displaced customers. Not once. So who was sitting in those two vacant seats my husband and I now occupied? My bet. Employees. I have never flown Southwest again, and I never will. By the way, here is the link to Jet Blue.