SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

When revenue-hungry airlines play “chicken” with passengers

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Here’s a decision most of us will have to make the next time we fly: Should you splurge for a “premium” seat in economy class — an aisle or a window seat — or leave it to chance, and possibly end up in a middle seat?

It happened to Fred Thompson on a recent Delta Air Lines flight from New York to Detroit. “The Delta website would not let me choose a seat when I booked the ticket four weeks early,” he says. “The day before my flight, I still could not pick a seat. All the economy seats were taken and the only available seats were fee-based with prices ranging from $9 to $29.”
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Is this a scam? Are airlines really giving away “free” flights?

Dick Jordan became suspicious when he received the first postcard offering “two round-trip airfares to anywhere Southwest flies.” He’s a loyal Southwest customer, but this seemed too good to be true – and he thinks it might be a scam.

After Jordan received the second postcard offering the same deal, he decided to contact Southwest Airlines. Maybe they were rewarding him for his continued business? After all, the postcard had the trademarked logo on it, so it seemed legit.

Instead of dialing the “888” number on the card, Jordan contacted a customer service representative at Southwest, who quickly informed him that this was not a deal offered by Southwest Airlines.
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Help, my AirTran tickets expired — is my money gone forever?

Talk about adding insult to injury.

Before Donna Adams was scheduled to fly from Orlando to Indianapolis on AirTran back in 2010, she hurt her back and had to cancel her trip. When she discovered her condition was a lot worse than she thought, she had to postpone the new flight she’d booked with her ticket credit.

“An MRI confirmed that I had herniated a disc in my back,” she says. “After several courses of physical therapy, chiropractic care, therapeutic massage, oral steroids and anti-inflammatory steroid injections I elected to have surgery.”
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Don’t wait too long to ask Southwest Airlines for a refund

Thomas Travia bought a ticket from Philadelphia to Omaha on Southwest Airlines but couldn’t use all of it. Nothing unusual about that — plans change all the time, and the airline offers some of the most flexible ticket change policies in the industry.

What sets this case apart is the type of ticket Travia got. Since he bought it at the airport, it was paper. Then he lost the ticket halfway through his trip and later asked Southwest for a refund. The airline told him he needed to wait, and now it’s telling him he waited too long. Maybe that’s because he traveled in 2008.

This is a strange one, my friends.
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XL passengers invade my economy class seat — and airlines let them

When Elisabeth Haas took her window seat on an American Airlines flight from Orlando to Dallas earlier this year, she discovered a problem – a very big problem.

“A morbidly obese seatmate encroached into my personal space,” she says. “He required a seat-belt extender and that the armrest divider be raised to accommodate his girth during the entire flight, including takeoff and landing. He also had to walk down the aisle oriented sideways and moved quite slowly.” (She sent me a photo of the offense, which I’ve published above.)
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Is “heartless” Southwest Airlines profiting from dad’s death?

Jennifer Kucinski lives in Kansas City. Her father lives in Orlando. Make that lived in Orlando.

A few weeks ago, she received devastating news that her dad had passed away unexpectedly. Compounding that tragedy was the fact that Southwest Airlines was trying to stick her with two overpriced plane tickets, a decision she calls “heartless.”

“Upon reaching the agent and explaining the situation, the first words out of the agents mouth were, ‘We don’t offer bereavement fares’,” she says.
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Is this enough compensation? “Very disappointed” by Southwest – so they sent me a voucher

I‘ve already written about Southwest’s new restrictions on credits. Well, passengers haven’t exactly warmed to them and other policy changes.

Nicole Watson say she’s “very disappointed” by the new rules.

“I have a few credits on Southwest and was hoping to let a family member use them in order to make it to my wedding,” she says. “I went to book the flight, only to realize Southwest changed their policy without any notification — even to their Rapid Rewards members.”
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Case dismissed: No ID? No flight

J. Gillula had a Southwest Airlines ticket from Oakland, Calif., to Baltimore last year. But he didn’t have his ID.

That shouldn’t have been a problem, at least according to the TSA. It allows passengers who don’t have identification to undergo a secondary screening.

But it was a problem.

After a long wait, and an interrogation by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, a Southwest airlines employee approached me and told me that I would not be able to fly that day.

When I asked who it was — the TSA or Southwest — that was denying me the right to travel, she clearly indicated that Southwest was denying me boarding, in the presence of several TSA employees who made no attempt to correct her.

I was then escorted back to the ticket counter, where the Southwest employee processed a refund for my round trip ticket; she did not, however, make any attempt to re-book me or provide me with alternate transportation.

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Can this trip be saved? I paid for the ticket — where’s my credit?

One of the things travelers love about an airline like Southwest is that it goes against the grain. When other airlines charge baggage fees, it doesn’t. When they impose change fees, it doesn’t. When they have assigned seats, Southwest refuses.

So passengers can be forgiven for getting a little upset when Southwest starts acting like … well, other airlines.
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Gratitude tree


Gratitude trees are small plants to which you hang cards bearing the things for which you’re thankful. They were a favorite arts and crafts project a few years ago, but I had never seen one on this scale until I stayed at Indian Springs Resort & Spa in Calistoga, Calif., earlier this week.

I’ll have more details on my visit to Napa on National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel blog in a few days. But I wanted to say something about what I discovered on the tree.

The number one thing people were grateful for: being alive.
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Here’s an update on yesterday’s Southwest story — and how you can help

The response to yesterday’s story about how a Southwest Airlines pilot held the plane for the grandfather of a murder victim has been overwhelming. Here’s an update.

A lot of readers have asked how they can help. Nancy, the toddler’s step-grandmother, has asked that donations to be made to the Aurora, Colo., location of the Ronald McDonald House, which has arranged for her husband and step-daughter to stay in a local hotel at no charge. Donations should be made in the name of Caden Rodgers.

Here are a few details about the case. The boy, Caden Rodgers, was reportedly body-slammed by his mother’s live-in boyfriend, last week. He died of his injuries on Thursday, according to reports. Here are a few more specifics on this horrific case. I can’t bring myself to write more.

Nancy also had a few comments after reading some of the feedback on the original post.

Yes, Mark works for Northrop Grumman. However, as all his flying is done under a government contract he is required to purchase the lowest fare possible per a DOD directive. That is usually SWA when it’s factored in there’s no checked baggage fee.

2. While Mark DOES work for Northrop Grumman, all travel purchases are made via American Express Travel. There’s nothing on his account or ticket that says, “Hey, this guy works for Northrop Grumman!”

3. Mark is a minion at NGC. His bosses might fly business class, but he doesn’t, much to his chagrin.

I’m grateful to the readers of this site for their compassionate response to this case, and to Southwest Airlines and its principled pilot for holding the plane.


Southwest Airlines pilot holds plane for murder victim’s family

It’s easy to be an airline industry critic in an era of “no waivers, no favors” and fees on top of fees. It’s easy to paint airlines as heartless corporations that treat us like self-loading cargo.

But every now and then, you hear a story that turns you into an adoring fan. Like Nancy’s story.

Before I continue, I should mention a few things: Nancy is a faithful reader of this site, and I agreed to use only her first name because of the brutal nature of the crime and the age of the victim. Second, I’m not an emotional, John Boehner-type, but I can’t read her story without getting a little teary.

So you’ve been warned: Grab a tissue.
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Can this trip be saved? Southwest Vacations mailed my paper tickets to the wrong address

Mistakes were made when Tushar Advani booked his Southwest Vacations trip from Chicago to Las Vegas. He admits he accidentally entered the wrong address — a simple typo that resulted in the paper tickets being sent to the wrong apartment.

Wait a second, did I just say paper tickets? What is this, 1995?

Yes, I did — and no, it’s not.

Anyway, none of that should have mattered because Southwest Vacations and its agency, Mark Travel didn’t exactly follow their own procedures, either. I’ll get to the details in a minute.

But this case raises some interesting issues, including what should happen when both parties make a mistake during a transaction. Who shoulders the blame?
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Is this enough compensation? Southwest confiscates tickets, offers “deal” to get family home

Ray Sandoval paid $650 for his wife and two young daughters to fly from Sacramento to New York on Southwest Airlines.

No, that’s not a typo. For just $150 per person, plus a $50 service fee, the Sandovals made it all the way to Baltimore before Southwest stopped them.

Turns out their fare was too good to be true. They were using a Buddy Pass they’d bought from a Southwest employee, which was technically a no-no. But Sandoval had no way of knowing that.

Southwest offered to fly the family back to California for a discounted fare of $1,016, even as two representatives assured him he’d done “nothing wrong.” Is that enough compensation?
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A $50 fee to redeem a 50 cent credit? Too bad you’re not flying on Southwest — oh, wait a sec, you are!

Southwest Airlines likes to think of itself a no-fee zone in the skies, with its promises of bags flying free. But it has at least one absurd surcharge of its own, according to Julian Vasquez Heilig.

The carrier recently charged him a $50 fee when he tried to use a 50 cent credit — that’s right, I said cent — on a ticket. Seriously.

His story shows air travelers must always be on their guard when it comes to fees, even when they’re flying a so-called “no-fee” airline.

Here’s what happened to Heilig:
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