The meltdown of Southwest airlines is causing untold stress and grief, with tens of thousands of people stranded at airports far from home, lost luggage, missed family reunions and vacations – even a bride who missed her own wedding.
Here’s what to do if your flight with any airline is cancelled or delayed by more than 12 hours.
Keep All Your Travel Documents & Receipts
Don’t tear up your paper boarding pass or delete the one on your mobile in anger and frustration – you’ll need it to apply for a refund.
Airlines are required by federal regulation to provide a refund for cancelled flights, even for a non-refundable ticket.
That’s not your priority at the moment, but having a copy of a boarding pass and/or your reservation code – that jumble of letters and numbers – will help you get rebooked or refunded.
ecoxplorer tip –
- Opt for a cash refund, NOT a flight credit. Last year, Alaska Air cancelled without notice a $400+ credit I had for a cancelled flight – it was one I cancelled, not them. But the result was the same – they kept $400+ of my money for flights I did not take.
Southwest has offered to repay stranded passengers for alternate transportation costs, including tickets purchased on other airlines, Amtrak and car rentals, meals, hotels, even a toothbrush to replace the one in your lost luggage. So keep all those receipts, too.
Try to book with another airline as quickly as possible. US-based carriers American, Delta, JetBlue and United have agreements with one another to get you re-booked on a partner carrier – if a seat is available.
Southwest does not have partner agreements with other airlines, so you are on your own.
ecoXplorer tip –
- Instead of calling the US-based customer service number, phone the number for Canada or even the international number, which are likely to be less busy, with a shorter wait time.
- Here is the link to Southwest’s international call centers.
Check flights at nearby airports. If you are stuck at O’Hare, check flights to/from Midway. LAX, try Burbank or Orange County. NYC, try Stewart. Jackson Hole, try Idaho Falls. Etc.
It may be a pricey taxi fare to get you to a nearby airport, but you may be able to get to your wedding or family reunion.
And some so-called “secondary airports” have bus service – such as Flyaway between LAX and Burbank, for just $8.
Airport-based chains are likely sold out, so look for an office of a national chain downtown.
They are more likely to have vehicles, and will have the same rules for dropping off in a different city than their airport locations.
Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus
If you are lucky to be stranded in a city served by train or bus service to where you want to go, jump on it.
Be Nice & Be Prepared
Gate attendants and call service operators are under the same stress you are.
Be ready to explain what you want – and in a tone that is more “honey” than “vinegar”.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as 1st VP of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA) and is a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also follow my NYC website, NYC Travel Guru
Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter