Flying home for Christmas should be a manageable event. You get on the plane, make it to your destination, and enjoy the holiday. Due to the weather, many people had flights rescheduled, delayed, and canceled. Thankfully, on December 26th, many airlines were back up and running except one, Southwest.
Southwest Cancels 71% of their flights on December 26th, making the holidays even more hectic for those trying to see families. This was not just a weather-related circumstance. It was all staff related. Southwest needed to be more staffed and scheduled way too many flights than they could handle.
If you are thinking about the other airlines, you can see most of those had better planning and had most of their flights flying. Delta had 9% of their flights canceled, United had 5%, and American had 0% of their flights revoked. So was the weather the culprit in Southwest’s flight debacle? Nope! It was the lack of staffing.
Southwest Cancels Thousands of Flights Stranding Passengers
The pandemic created a huge staffing issue for airlines to get back up and running. Delta had major issues over the summer making sure passengers were getting to their destinations. They even offered vouchers and compensation to those missing flights.
There have been stories of passengers being stranded at airports. Now during this holiday season, Southwest has canceled thousands of flights. Depending on the airline, the customer service desks and hotlines have a 2-6 hour hold.
In Phoneix, it was heard over the intercom that 90% of flights on Southwest had been canceled. People are then unable to rebook for several days.
Unlike the other airlines that have partnerships, most of these Southwest flights cannot be booked with the other airlines. People are now stuck at airports and trying to find a way home. Social media shows that people have looked for rental cars and hotels and trying to figure out how to get their money back.
With its heralded Companion Pass and excellent customer service reviews, an airline like Southwest could have dropped the ball so badly.
People need help getting their luggage, rebooking flights, or even leaving the airport. Data from FlightAware shows that on Christmas day, they had 48% of flights were delayed, with 42% canceled. Then on December 26th, 71% of the Southwest flights were canceled.
Southwest decided to sell as many seats and flights as possible. It was not about helping passengers out but about making their shareholders happy. This debacle could have been avoided if they had been more conservative with their planning.
What Are the Rights of Passengers During Cancellations?
In the U.S., there are few rights for passengers compared to other places like Europe. If your flight is canceled by the airline due to weather or other circumstances and you cancel your reservation, you are entitled to a full refund. This means no credit or vouchers from the airline; you will receive a full refund.
U.S. Transportation puts it this way:
“If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
So it will mean that you may not see your family for the holidays, but at least you get your full money back. Don’t let the airline try to give you a voucher instead of a full refund. The law is created to help the passengers.
Don’t Expect Other Compensation
In Europe, under EU261 Compensation, passengers can receive up to 600 Euros for canceled or delayed flights that are within the airline’s control. If flights are canceled or delayed, that costs the airlines big time and money. That makes the airlines plan better and be more conservative with the number of flights scheduled.
In the U.S., no such protections will help prevent airlines from overselling and delaying flights due to a lack of staff. Weather is one thing, but having adequate staff to continue to operate is better planning.
Airlines have no legal requirement to put people in hotels or provide food. It would be wise to see if your credit card has flight delay and cancellation protection. Chase Sapphire and Capital One Venture X have delay and cancelation insurance to help passengers in need.
It is time for the government to take action and help protect the rights of the people instead of letting these airlines be greedy for their shareholders.
Chaos has erupted due to Southwest cancellations. Weather cannot be the excuse since many other major airlines operate as if nothing has happened. The poor staffing and planning have put Southwest flights in disarray. Southwest will not be able to fix these things in the next few days. It is time to find other arrangements for travel if you are stuck.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.