CrazyTim Travel Blog

Southwest Airlines – San Diego, CA to Columbus, OH

by on Dec.17, 2009, under Airlines

Southwest AirlinesWe love Southwest.  I cannot say enough good things about this airline.  I wanted to write the story about this particular flight and how Southwest handled it.

Coming back from San Diego, we were connecting in Chicago Midway, as it is a huge hub for Southwest.  We were actually well ahead of schedule coming into Chicago.  I meant to mention; this flight was the only one for Chicago not delayed in departing, which we found odd.  We soon found out why.  The first signs of winter had settled in at Chicago, and they requested that our pilots maintain a holding pattern around Midway while they cleaned off the runway some more.  We were cleared to land, but just seemed to circle for awhile (about half an hour).   Eventually, we pulled up.  The pilot informed us that the city of Chicago had closed the airport temporarily due to unacceptable braking conditions, and that we would be diverting to Indianapolis.  It’s close, so no big deal.  Well, after landing, we sat on the runway for a long while. Maybe close to an hour.  The story was there was no gate available as they were not expecting us to land there, but an hour seemed rather high to be waiting on a gate to clear.  Anyway, I assumed it was just buying some time while they figured out how they were going to fix the evenings of the people on this plane.  Here came the misstep – the customer relations representative for Indianapolis boarded our plane to address us.  I don’t remember her name, and I’m glad I didn’t, because she was terrible tonight.  Maybe she was frazzled from a long day.  She announced that she understood that those bound for Columbus or Washington, DC might be tempted to rent a car and drive the rest of the way, but that if we did, we would be voluntarily releasing all responsibility for the flight completion, and that there probably weren’t any rental cars, anyway.  That was it.  No solutions.  No updates.  Just a “if you want to get off the plane because you’ve been uncomfortable trapped in this tube for 5 hours, too bad.”  She should have not even have boarded the plane. She offered zero value.  Anyway, some lucky folks that happened to bound for Indianapolis were able to get off.  This was maybe seven people. Others bound for Columbus were using their smartphones to check the Southwest website, and when they saw our connection flight was “Boarding” they left, also.  We then turned around, were de-iced, and finally took off for Chicago.  We landed with some understandable bumps, and figured we’d be stuck in Chicago for the night.   Getting to the nearest gate saying “Columbus” we were informed that our plane, AND the plane before us had not yet left, and were waiting on a pilot to arrive from.. wherever.  We spent an additional 1.5 hours there, and boarded our plane got got home around 2am, about 4 hours past scheduled time.

Four hours delay was not a big net loss of time, especially during near-winter months in air travel.. connecting in a typically difficult winter city.  I thought the Indianapolis Southwest rep could have handled us much, much better, and it would have been nice to have heard about our Columbus flight while we were in Indy, to put our minds at ease.  There were likely many, many flights to handle, and I understand that a long night can cause gaps in that typical customer service.  I counted it as a bad day for Southwest and forgave them. No harm really resulted, and I didn’t have to spend the night in Chicago.

Southwest turned it around a couple days later.  In my email, I received three $50 “LUV Vouchers,” one for each passenger, for a future Southwest flight.  I did not request one, nor did I write an angry letter.  They just.. sent them.  This was their way of acknowledging that we did have an uncomfortable night, and that a small token might make us feel better.  This was brilliant, in my opinion.  Assuming that everyone received one of these, people would get the impression that Southwest sets themselves apart from other airlines by offering proactive, not reactive apologies, and a voucher for a future flight encourages the consumer to give them another shot.  Bravo, guys.  I’m sure I’ll be prompted to write more articles about Southwest for future trips too.  Did I mention they’re STILL not charging for bags?

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