Airline Anxiety

the transportation disaster over winter season

Holidays are a popular time for traveling. People may choose to visit family or want a relaxing vacation away from home. However, this winter season was a little more aggravating than normal. Airlines, most notably Southwest Airlines, had thousands of complaints between Christmas and New Years. 

Southwest canceled over 16,000 flights this holiday season, which led many families and airline staff to be stranded all over the country. Senior Hank Reeg witnessed the chaos at the airports, but was mildly affected by it himself. 

“We had one flight canceled coming home but luckily we got on a flight the next day,” Reeg said. “We were one of the last Southwest flights out of Phoenix for the next three days.”

Even though families were not allowed to make it to destinations, their luggage was a different story. Whenever a flight is canceled, the passengers’ luggage travels on to the destination or a different destination while the passenger is stranded.  

“When we got back to Kansas City we went to the luggage carousel and there were hundreds of bags that were stacked on top of each other,” Reeg said. “Bags that weren’t even supposed to be in Kansas City, bags supposed to be in Texas and Virginia and New York that were all stranded.”

These cascading events resulted in thousands of complaints from customers about reimbursements for flights or lost baggage. Some airports have even begun to auction off bags because nobody has reached out to claim them. 

“It was chaos trying to get our bags,” Reeg said. “Luckily, we got all of them back, but I mean there were passengers that were climbing inside the baggage carousel to try and retrieve bags.”

Most of the complications occurred due to Southwest’s outdated system, which they have been trying to improve for years and this holiday fiasco is evidence to that. They are looking to prevent future problems by changing their entire network to work in tangent with other airlines instead of functioning independently. Currently they cannot have passengers take other airlines if their flight is canceled since Southwest does not run on a hub system, however, by switching to this they can potentially bounce back from unexpected events as quickly as other airlines.

“Obviously, it was just annoying,” Reeg said. “But it was surreal when we landed in Kansas City and I saw the luggage and I saw all the issues and at this point we were home so it didn’t matter as much but I was just in awe at how it could get this bad.”