An Open Letter to Southwest Airlines

To Whom It May Concern:

My wife, 15 month old son and I were booked on your January 2nd, 2014 Flight 2315 from PHX to AUS.

You may be familiar with the details of this flight, as I’m sure I’m not the first passenger to write about it.  If not, here are the bullet points.

  • 6:00pm Flight scheduled to depart
  • 5pm gate agent advised the flight was 30 minutes delayed to 6:30
  • Approximately 5:30pm flight was delayed until 9:45.  Advised previous plane that arrived from Sacramento had mechanical issues and was being diverted to an airport with mechanical services.  16 passengers from Sacramento who were on their way to Austin were taken off the plane.  We were advised that a new plane was flying in from Buffalo, NY that would be able to take us to Austin, hence the 3:45 delay.  Good news was that the flight was not affected by the weather and was in the air on the way to PHX.
  • 9:30pm Plane from Buffalo arrives a few minutes early.
  • 9:40pm line up for boarding, Group A
  • 9:45 just realized that the pilots who had been in the air for 3 hours and 45 minutes have hit their flying limit.  An explanation of why this wasn’t realized before they left Buffalo was not provided, nor can I imagine one.
  • 9:45 Advised new pilots are in PHX and on the way to the gate
  • 10:15 Advised new pilots are not actually in PHX, but new pilots are on their way on a flight from Orange County.  New arrival time into AUS adjusted to 2:50am CST.
  • 11:30pm Boarding Call again for Group A, passengers line up
  • 11:30pm Captain from Orange County shows up, looking concerned.  Gets on computer and cell phone.
  • 11:35 Announced that the Captain from Orange County came over but his First Officer either ignored the directions that he would be flying to AUS, or never received the direction.  So we have a Captain, but no First Officer.  No new estimated boarding time.  Starts a verbal assault from a passenger toward gate agent.
  • 12:00-2am No official announcement from the gate.  News is now obtained by passengers pestering gate crew.  News that the First Officer has turned off his phone and is not answering calls.  News the Captain has until 6am to get to AUS and SW is looking for a new First Officer.  News 10 other flights are in bound into PHX, hoping to get a FO from one of them.
  • 1:45am Flight finally cancelled, advised to line up at ticket counter to get rebooked.
  • 1:45am Passengers scramble to get into line at the ticket counter to get rebooked.  Because the flight waited so long to cancel, now first available flights to rebook are for Saturday morning.  Ticket agent rebooks first passenger in line.  
  • 1:46am Ticket agent makes announcement that instead of rebooking passengers in the order they have already lined up in (as advised), they will call out passengers by boarding group.  This starts a 2nd verbal assault from several passengers regarding fair treatment. 
  • 1:47am I got out of line to purchase ticket on my own.  Called SW Customer Service and was advised via recording that SW was experiencing greater than normal wait times and the next available agent would help me in 1.5 hours.  Word had spread from a cancelled Portland flight that purchasing tickets on your phone can help ticketing agent and serve passengers faster.  First available flights were for Saturday Jan 4th, flight 2970 to LAS and flight 2042 from LAS to AUS.  Purchased for $806.00.
  • 1:47am Wife got on phone to purchase a place to stay.  Found a room at the Hilton Phoenix Airport for 2 nights totaling $289.66
  • 2:00am Got to Baggage Claim
  • 3:30am Bags delivered to Baggage Claim
  • 4:00am Arrived at Hilton, 12 hours after arriving at airport
  Our son sleeps, it's past midnight after all.

Our son sleeps, it's past midnight after all.

While staying in Phoenix for 2 extra days, we ate at the Macayo Depot for $48.38.  Extra parking at AUS was $14.00 and our dog stayed boarded an extra day, for $40.  

  Southwest passengers get behind the desk to try to find a First Officer.  Southwest agent is unable to control the crowd.

Southwest passengers get behind the desk to try to find a First Officer.  Southwest agent is unable to control the crowd.

I have been trying to call your Dallas Customer Service number (2149320333), after speaking with an agent at the 800 number, but the 214 number has been busy.  I called multiple times on Friday, Monday and today Tuesday the 7th.  I tried to submit this letter through your "Contact Us" page, but the online form has an arbitrary 2500 character limit.

Please advise how best to get the $1,198.04 back that I incurred trying to get my family home on Southwest Airlines.

Sincerely,

 

Justin Ross

Rapid Reward #20023944791