I really feel for Southwest Airlines’ (SWA) passengers, gate agents, flight attendants and baggage handlers as this complete meltdown couldn’t have come at a worse time. There are a lot of factors as to why it happened including the weather, mismanagement, and old software but that’s another story: Here’s what stranded Southwest Airlines passengers should do.

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Heck, when pilots and flight attendants can’t get through to their own airline’s operations team and have to sleep on an airport floor or pay for a hotel room themselves, then you know things are bad. It’s going to be days, if not weeks, before the airline resumes normal operations. And for this mayhem to happen over the holidays and when there are so many viruses around, it just doesn’t look good on the part of the executive team. But I’m not here to point fingers, I’m just here to try and help stranded passengers get home to their families or jobs. Here are my 10 quick tips for Southwest Airlines passengers:

1. Book another airline
If you really need to get somewhere, try and book a seat on another carrier. It will cost you since prices are high and SWA probably won’t reimburse you since they don’t have an interline agreement, which allows airlines to put you on another carrier. The good news is that American Airlines (AA) just stated in a tweet: “We’re doing our part to help get people where they need to be and we’re putting a cap on fares for select cities.” But one user showed the prices are still high.

2. Call Southwest’s international agents
If you didn’t book your ticket via a good travel agent (they will do the dirty work for you) and you can’t get through to an agent, then try calling Southwest’s international call centers. If you use Skype, it won’t cost as much and the wait time should be significantly less. Here’s the list.

3. Do your research
If you do get through to an agent, don’t rely on them to give you the best flight options. Do your research and find a flight that has space and that you want. It will not only speed things up for everyone but you won’t have to settle for the first thing the antiquated software offers you.

4. Save receipts
Save your receipts for hotel, food, transportation – especially if you’re in the middle of making a connection or waiting for your return flight home. Southwest is now saying, “If you have been impacted by a flight cancellation or significant flight delay between December 24, 2022, and January 2, 2023, you may submit receipts for consideration via Email Us on Southwest.com. We will honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for meals, hotel, and alternate transportation.

This comes after pressure from the DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg who was on network news earlier today and tweeted his segment along with: “Southwest passengers have experienced unacceptable disruptions and customer service conditions. I have made clear to their executives that our department will hold Southwest accountable for making things right with their customers and employees.”

5. File a complaint with the DOT
If SWA doesn’t reimburse you (give them a few weeks), then file a complaint with the DOT. They tweeted this earlier today: “If you are experiencing difficulties in your travel, you can visit our Office of Aviation Consumer Protection’s website to learn more about your rights and file a complaint if needed.”

6. Rent a car or take the train
If you really have to get somewhere and all the flights on other airlines are sold out, then try renting a car or taking the train, an often overlooked option.

7. Carpool
If the rental cars are sold out or are too expensive, ask other passengers on your flight if they’re interested in carpooling. It’s happened multiple times this week, including when these four strangers drove from Tampa to Cleveland together.

8. Don’t check a bag
If you’ve seen those crazy images of checked baggage piling up at airports, then you shouldn’t need me to tell you not to check a bag. If you’re already on a trip, then ship your old clothes home via ground; FedEx and UPS offer reasonable rates as long as you’re traveling domestic. But be sure to carry on all your valuables and medications and pack a set of warm clothes and a couple of outfits in your carry-on, just in case you get stranded again. If you must check a bag, then pop an Apple AirTag or Samsung SmartTag if you use Android in it so you can track it.

9. Help other travelers out
There’s a story circulating about a teacher facing an ‘armageddon of luggage’ at Tampa International Airport the day after Christmas. She sent text messages to the phone numbers on the baggage tags to reunite holiday travelers with their missing bags. It’s brilliant, helpful and what a way to pass all that time waiting.

10. Be extra nice
Just remember: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I’m always nice but especially to airline employees since they can make or break your trip. It’s not their fault that airline executives haven’t updated their software and have totally mismanaged operations. They’d rather be home too with their loved ones so be happy they’re actually showing up to work, unlike a lot of SWA employees.

KEEP READING

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