Column: Southwest Airways turns into the Grinch who stole a Christmas journey

The numbers inform a sobering story in regards to the Southwest Airways vacation collapse: hundreds of flights all of the sudden canceled, and hundreds and hundreds of vacationers caught for days in airport terminals.

However what the statistics can not convey is the distress, nervousness and full confusion between the determined vacationers caught in that dystopian scene – and the heartbreak of households whose Christmas was with out family members caught within the vortex of nature’s fury and the airline’s incompetence.

I do know as a result of our household was considered one of them. And my Christmas will not begin till my youngest daughter walks within the door.

She needed to depart Oakland on Saturday and arrived on the airport with two hours to spare; solely then did she be taught that her flight had been cancelled. She was herded right into a line with a whole lot of others from landed flights, and their surreal odyssey started.

Southwest gate brokers frantically tried to rebook passengers, however their choices shortly dwindled as planes have been grounded by climate and absent flight crews. My daughter was rebooked on six totally different flights and spent two days shuttling between airports in Oakland and San Francisco. However all these flights have been additionally cancelled.

Because the drama continued, the throngs of confused vacationers grew, caught for hours in slow-moving traces that snaked from the gates previous the luggage declare and onto the sidewalk exterior — with no clue what Southwest deliberate to do.

As time ran out for Christmas flights, overworked gate brokers have been left to cope with an anxious crowd – with no reduction in sight.

My daughter texted me: “I’ve seen a number of adults cry once they notice there is not any method they are going to get house on time. Women in Christmas sweaters with tears streaming down their cheeks. Previous ladies are pushed away from the gate once they have nowhere else to go.

“And the households with kids haven’t any probability in any respect; there are little kids sleeping on the ground in shifts. It appears like a haven.”

However amid the tugs and tears, there was a type of camaraderie within the trenches, as would-be passengers tried to come back to phrases with the truth that they’d miss Christmas with family members.

My daughter felt this as strangers, together with a younger man with inexperienced hair and tattoos masking his arms, tried to consolation her.

“You cry so arduous for not being at house; you need to actually love your loved ones,” he stated. “Hey, that is dope!”

And with that, she went again to her Oakland house alone and, for the primary time in her life, spent Christmas with out her household – whereas we put aside the ornaments that had at all times been hers to hold on the tree.

Christmas has at all times been troublesome for my three daughters and me. Their father died every week earlier than Christmas, once they have been simply 8, 5 and three. That was a long time in the past, however it nonetheless casts a shadow over the vacation. We endure our rituals and the fun of being collectively.

And Southwest was, in a method, our associate in that. Two of my daughters went to school within the Bay Space and stayed – and the airline was an reasonably priced strategy to keep up a correspondence. We may fly, with “Wanna Get Away” fares, from Burbank to the Bay Space and again for lower than it takes to fill my automotive’s fuel tank right this moment.

However the magnitude of the errors this week ought to tarnish the airline’s picture. The corporate disrespected clients, harassed workers and tried guilty the unhealthy climate that blanketed the East and Midwest for every week’s price of flight crew failures, lengthy after the storm had subsided.

The failures have been so egregious that the federal Division of Transportation plans to probe the airline’s actions and look at its excuses.

You recognize issues are past unhealthy when the Southwest gate agent has to make an announcement like this, to folks ready in Oakland for a Denver flight: I am so sorry guys, I do know it has been many hours, however we won’t discover our flight attendants. We known as headquarters, and nobody is aware of the place they’re.

After my daughter heard this, within the midst of the continuous chaos, we determined it was time to discover a Plan B. Christmas could have handed, however we did not hand over. So her sisters and I scoured the web and pooled our cash for her ticket house on a small, dependable personal jet service that had one seat left.

By the point you learn this, I hope, she can be at house, including her ornaments to our Christmas tree.

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