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Missed a delayed Southwest flight due to airline

This is an interesting story. I was traveling in the US from SLC to LAX on Southwest Airlines in January. Flight originally scheduled for 6:00pm, delayed notification on smartphone app showing departure at 6:40 pm. OK, so rather than sit at the airport and do nothing, I’ll arrive at the airport an hour before the new flight time. No big deal, I was only ten minutes away from the airport anyway. Or so I thought….

Flight status showing delayed

Waiting in line for TSA security at 5:50pm I get a call, it’s from the gate agent working the Southwest flight. She says “Are you on the plane?” I’m like wtf. The flight doesn’t leave until 6:40pm and I mention I’m at security. She mentioned the flight was moved back to the original departure time and says they can’t hold the flight and I’ll miss it. (As a side note, shouldn’t you know who’s on the plane?)

I didn’t receive any notification from SWA that the departure time was moved back. Also note the image, time is 5:54 pm on my phone, still showing a delayed flight till 6:40pm (although the status says “boarding”.) Since I never received a notification the flight time was moved earlier, it’s clearly, in my opinion the airline’s fault that I missed the flight.

One of the large American carriers once told me, once a flight is delayed, the time is not moved up because then passengers won’t be at the gate to get on the plane. (Believe it was Delta, but can’t remember for sure.) That makes sense. Apparently Southwest doesn’t follow that rule.

After the agent was nice enough to call and tell me they’re not holding the plane, I walked away from security and went to ticketing. Missed the flight, and asked to get rebooked. Next flight was the following day. The agent Stacey was very apologetic and felt bad for me. I asked if her computer was showing delayed, and she said it was, and called the gate agent and confirmed the flight closed. She said that Southwest never tells passengers when the delay time moves earlier, and she hates that fact.  So this isn’t an uncommon occurrence.

Stacey did rebook me without issue and I had to stay another night in Salt Lake City. Next day took the morning flight without issue to Los Angeles.

Upon completing the flight, I wrote a e-mail to customer service. Took SWA nine days to respond. See my letter below.

I was checked-in for flight 3946 on 1/16. SWA indicated a delay to 6:40pm. I have a screenshot from the SWA app, plus the ticketing agent confirmed the delay.

At 550pm, while I was in line for TSA, the gate agent called my personal cell phone to ask where I was because the plane was leaving on-time. She said they can’t hold the flight and it was now leaving on-time at 6pm.

I missed the flight and had to be rebooked the next day since it was the last flight of the day. The agent confirmed the flight had a delay posted, she also mentioned that SWA does not notify customers if they move the time back up.

Therefore, I am requesting compensation of $160 or 15,000 miles for the extra transport to/from SLC and overnight stay. I did not miss the flight due to any fault of my own. SWA provided wrong time information.

(As a side note, I do want to commend Stacey at SLC for helping me get rebooked and being very apologetic and professional.)

Received the canned response below, which didn’t even address my compensation request.

Dear Christopher,

Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding your recent experience with us. We regret that we have not met our intended timeframe to respond to your email, but please know that we appreciate the opportunity to follow-up with you.

We know that you depend on accurate information, and we do our best to send timely flight status updates through our Automated Outbound Messaging notification system. There are moments when improvements in weather, Air Traffic Control directives, and better alternatives for our operation become available, and the estimated delay may be end up being briefer than initially anticipated and provides us with an opportunity to depart sooner than expected. Your situation appears to be one of those occasions, and I regret that you missed your scheduled flight and were subsequently inconvenienced. While we are pleased to see that you were reaccommodated on an alternate flight on January 17, we sincerely apologize that you were unable to travel as originally scheduled.

We wish that we could erase such an unpleasant memory; unfortunately, we cannot, but we can encourage you to let us create a new one by traveling with us again soon. Your patronage is very important to us.

Sincerely,
Conor McMahon, Southwest Airlines

Went to Southwest’s Twitter to follow-up on compensation.

Twitter response from SWA

Basically SWA says too bad. It makes no sense to me why the airline would not give passengers a flight update and say tough luck if we don’t wait at the gate. What if the flight is delayed for hours? Passengers are supposed to sit at the gate and wait? Lets be realistic, if the flight is delayed, smart passengers are not going to sit at the airport and waste their lives away. Even on the news, they say check with your carrier for delays because they don’t want you sitting at the airports.

Not really sure what my suggestion would be if you encounter the same situation. For flight delays, I’ve never seen it move up back to the original departure time, this is the first time. Also, most airlines will update you with changes to the flight time. I would probably suggest to continue following the delayed time, unless you’re flying Southwest, then it’s a gamble since they don’t notify you properly.

Perhaps the real solution is not to fly Southwest in the US, stick with one of the 3 main airlines, UA, AA, and DL. But they do have some good policies and fares at times.

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