Bad weather forced a recent Southwest Airlines flight to divert to Baltimore instead of its destination of Philadelphia. The only option for a couple eager to make their granddaughter’s birthday was to take a train, at a cost of $118. The couple claims a Southwest employee told them they’d be reimbursed for their trip if they called the 1-800 number and explained what had happened–but when they called, the reimbursement was refused.
Christopher Elliott, ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine, examined the fine print in Southwest’s legal agreement and determined that Southwest is obligated to deliver you to your destination, but on their terms. That means you shouldn’t take an employee’s verbal promise as anything more than one person’s opinion. Elliott advises you go to a ticket counter and ask the employee how they intend to get you to your destination; in other words, put the ball in their court.
In this case, Southwest made good on the train fare and gave the couple a ticket voucher for future travel. But unless you can manage to get a journalist to follow-up for you like they did, you probably should make sure you can afford to add Amtrak to your travel expenses.