Harsh weather conditions and winter storms, according to Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan, caused the airline’s tens of thousands of flight cancellations this past December. Those impacted include Howard University students traveling home for the holidays–one of whom had to spend Christmas Day in the airport.
Janee Jenkins, a senior broadcast journalism major, was flying from Chicago to Miami on Dec. 22 when her flight was canceled and rebooked for Christmas Eve, which is also her birthday. Her rescheduled flight was also canceled, leaving Jenkins left with the option to fly standby on Christmas morning where she spent most of Christmas Day traveling.
Jenkins did not arrive in Miami until Christmas night after additional layovers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Tampa, Florida. She recalls seeing the desperation and frustration in the faces of other passengers who were dealing with small children and those who lost money on vacations that they never arrived to.
“This is my last semester, and I am a senior so I know that I can’t go home this semester because it’s grind time and I am trying to graduate. So it was like I wanted to cherish that time but everything was fighting me to get home. It was really crazy,” Jenkins said.
Cory Utsey, senior journalism major from Corpus Christi, Texas, had her flight canceled the day before she was moving out of her apartment in Washington, D.C. Due to the urgent nature of her case, Utsey chose to buy a ticket with American Airlines that cost more than $500– after already spending $200 on her Southwest ticket– to ensure that she would be back in time for her move.
Moreover, while she was able to secure a ticket with another airline, her new travel time was 11 hours compared to the usual four-hour flight that she was used to. Utsey also noted that additional stress arose when her new flight had transfers in Dallas and Philadelphia and she had to pay an extra $70 for her checked bags.
Southwest Airlines did try to remedy the situation by rebooking Utsey for a flight the next day, which she says was also canceled.
Students not only experienced delays for themselves, but had plans with their own families impacted as well. Gregory Coleman, a senior journalism major from Indianapolis, recalls his twin sister having her Dec. 26 flight rescheduled to Dec. 30 during their family vacation in Las Vegas for the holidays.
“There was nothing we could have done differently because it was all last minute with Southwest with tickets that we had booked months in advance. There was no way we would have known this would have happened, but it was sad that it was the situation at hand,” Coleman said.
Customer complaints against the airline have been piling up, prompting the Department of Transportation to demand that the airline resolve each one within 60 days. However, CNN reports the airline must also honor passenger refund requests “within 7 business days if the traveler paid for the ticket by card and 20 days if they paid by cash or check” for those who had their flights canceled or significantly delayed for any reason.
Southwest Airlines has reportedly already distributed 25,000 Rapid Rewards Points to each of those affected by these travel delays. Additionally, they also promise that they are still working around the clock to provide customer refunds for individual cases where passengers spent their own money on hotels, car rentals, food, and other means of transportation to get them to their desired location during the busiest travel season of the year.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett