Dear Southwest Airlines,
I have always respected you for your low rates and friendly personnel. When I worked as an administrative assistant, I would book your flights above most other airlines because my guys loved your rewards and you always seemed to fly where they wanted to go. That is why my latest experience with you was such a disappointment to me, my family and every single passenger on flight 4935 to Cancun and flight 8887 back to Austin. Most upsetting was the flight back, of course.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You don’t know me or may even like to, but allow me to introduce myself. I am a mother of two toddler boys. I am what you would call a schedule oriented mother. I live by routines and schedules that we have worked hard to set up for my children. I truly believe that keeping routines is part of why my boys are so happy and well mannered. With that in mind our original flight was carefully selected to match said schedules as closely as possible in order to cause very little disruption. This is what was originally booked:
|Sat Apr 11||708||Depart AUSTIN, BERGSTROM INTL US at 09:40 AM Arrive in CANCUN, INTERNATIONAL MX at 12:10 PM|
|Sat Apr 18||4587||Depart CANCUN, INTERNATIONAL MX at 03:20 PM Arrive in AUSTIN, BERGSTROM INTL US at 06:05 PM|
I would have to wake the kids up a little bit earlier than usual, but nothing too drastic, I thought. They would have been able to nap on the plane on the way back as well. It was all totally doable and perfectly planned.
Then with no explanation whatsoever you sent this confirmation:
|Sat Apr 11||4935||Depart AUSTIN, BERGSTROM INTL at 06:15 AM Arrive in CANCUN, INTERNATIONAL, MX at 08:45 AM Travel Time 2 hours 30 minutes|
|Sat Apr 18||4587||Depart CANCUN, INTERNATIONAL, MX at 5:05PM Arrive in AUSTIN, BERGSTROM INTL at 7:50PM Travel Time 2 hours 45 minutes|
Excuse me? How in the world do you even think this drastic change would be ok with anyone with babies? We thought there was some mistake. I mean there had to be, right? Maybe you sent the wrong confirmation, right? Wrong! You must have thought we just wouldn’t notice. My husband called your 1800 line and found out that it was due to the airport assigning arrival times. Here is my issue with this. If you had no arrival time set to begin with why do you sell tickets with times at all? The nice lady on the phone made it very clear that this was how it works. Times are not assigned until 30 days out. Again, why even bother giving us options of times to choose from? When your customers pick the times for takeoff, there should be some kind of guarantee. Wouldn’t you agree? It seems like good business to me.
We gave you the benefit of the doubt and blamed the airport. Now we had to figure out how to wake two toddlers that love to sleep at 3am without any major meltdowns. Because you sent the change so close to the actual flight, we were unable to find any alternative flights. Thanks for that also.
We happily made it to our destination and had an amazing time celebrating my in-laws 50th anniversary with my husband’s family. Nine of us (7 adults and 2 children) had to endure the terrible trip, but loved every sun-kissed minute we got once there.
On our final day, the day of our return flight, we had everything planned out perfectly again. We went to lunch, played in the sand and had the airport van pick us up there to get us to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
As soon as we checked in, however, the lady at the counter informed us (with no compassion, mind you) that the flight was delayed due to maintenance issues for an hour and a half. These things happen, we understood that. Bedtime would have to be pushed a bit, but we could handle it. I did ask if we could find a different flight and the lady pretty much laughed at me. Rude! We had no choice but to wait.
My issue was not with the lady (even if she was unprofessional) or the unforeseen change. We would rather fly on a safe plane than one with issues that go unchecked any given day. My issue was with your lack of responsibility. As a major international airline you should be very aware of the importance of a backup plan. All airlines should either have other aircrafts ready to take the place of faulty ones, or an understanding with other airlines to work together to keep your customers happy and as close to the schedules they paid for. YOU HAD NO BACKUP PLAN.
Soon after the initial shock it was announced that the flight was not making it at 7:30 but 8. Not that big a change but still starting to grate on every passenger. Maybe now would be a good time for a backup plan? A plane that was already ready would have been able to take the place of the one that was still being fixed. Alas, YOU HAD NO BACKUP PLAN.
A little while later it was announced that we would now have to wait until 9:17pm. Mama’s not a happy mama anymore. This change would now not get us home until after midnight…with toddlers! Unacceptable! This is when all that followed could’ve been avoided. No other trouble had to happen if you had a backup plan. YOU HAD NO BACKUP PLAN.
I asked if we could get hotel vouchers so our littles could get to sleep at a reasonable hour and we were very quickly denied. We were willing to wait a day or two in order for weather to clear and all the issues to be resolved but we were told you didn’t do that. No one even bothered calling corporate to check, the answer was an instant well-rehearsed “NO”.
Guess what? Troubles were not over. Next we were told that we would no longer fly to Austin but to Atlanta and have to wait until 6am for the next flight! WHAT? Customs would be closed in Austin by the time we arrived there and Atlanta was the closest airport with 24hr service. Not your fault an international airport is not open 24hrs (another practice that makes no sense) but you know what is your fault: YOU HAD NO BACKUP PLAN.
Now you want me to sleep at the airport with two toddlers? You want the pregnant lady with back pain to sleep on hard airport chairs? You want the lady with diabetes to sleep at an airport without enough medication for another day? You want the two other families with babies younger than ours to sleep in a loud and bright airport lobby? You want the couples that had romantic getaways whose kids are waiting for them at home to convince the sitter to stay one more day? You want the people with pet sitters to get them to cancel their next job in order to stay with their pets one more day? Did you even care? If you did, you could’ve worked something out. All of this because YOU HAD NO BACKUP PLAN.
Do you realize that if you had a backup plan as in a deal with a hotel, another airline to help out or other planes to dispatch at the beginning of the mess then the bad weather in Texas would have been avoided, customs closing would not have been an issue, and I would not have to write this letter? Also, your poor staff that had no clue of what was going on would not have had to answer to over a hundred very visibly upset passengers.
Did you really think that a $14 meal voucher was going to do anything at all? That is a pretty pathetic attempt at making things right, by the way. I understand that many other destinations had problems as well. I saw many complaints about you ruining many trips because of your lack of responsibility and….NOT HAVING A BACKUP PLAN.
My family, my husband’s family and many other passengers made it clear that they were not flying with you again. We hope the money you saved by not providing hotels, reassigning flights at better times or even providing compensation for such a horrible experience made up for the loss of good reviews and repeat passengers in the future. We ended up arriving home at almost 10 am. My kids were very tired and unhappy. My two year old was throwing up the entire next day and they are not looking forward to flying again. This is coming from two boys that love planes.
Let me be clear that I do not blame your staff for any of this; some of them were very sweet and helpful. The lady in the blue shirt in Mexico (wish I had written down names) was very compassionate. (The lady at the first counter and another in a yellow vest were not at all, however). The flight crews all were very helpful and sweet to my kids. The crew in Atlanta was fantastic. Everyone there was amazing, helpful and even made us laugh a little while there (that may have just been because we were delirious, but still, they were fabulous.) My issues were not with them; my issue is simply that YOU DID NOT HAVE A BACKUP PLAN.
Maybe this will help you see how important a plan B is for your future. For now I want to thank you for showing me that saving money on a fare does not make up for saving my sanity. I lost a little on this 28hr day for sure.
Hope your future trips are better than ours for those that continue to use your airline.
One disappointed mama.