Southwest Passengers Recall Long Lines, Poor Communication During Massive Glitch

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A major issue with its technical systems left thousands of Southwest Airlines flights grounded last week, leaving passengers stranded with few options: wait out the glitch or look for alternative means of travel.

Inconvenienced passengers shared their stories of woe with the Dallas Morning News, recounting their choices between 12-hour car rides and sleeping in the airport.

“It was a mess. There were lines everywhere,” one passenger trying to get home from vacation said.

The man and his wife spent two hours in line waiting to get rebooked after the glitch began last Wednesday.

“The computers would come back up and they’d get boarding passes for two or three or four people, then they’d go down again,” the man, who ended up spending the night at the airport, said. “I felt sorry for (the gate agents). Some people were irate.”

Southwest announced last week that it was dealing with flight delays system-wide, and was holding any plane that had not already left at its airport gates.

In a video from the airline’s communications command center, officials with the carrier tried to placate stranded passengers, asking for patience while the computers got back on track.

But, it seems, patience quickly wore thin for many passengers trying to get where they were going.

One woman tells the Dallas Morning News that instead of waiting out the delays and cancellations, she and her husband opted to rent a car and drive 12 hours from Dallas to Denver in order to make a wedding.

“It was tough, just to make the 12-hour drive. It was so unexpected and we were already lacking sleep,” the woman said. “I don’t really hold anything against Southwest. They did try to fix it as quickly as they could. I just hope it doesn’t happen again because it was definitely not easy on anyone involved.”

Other passengers say spillover from the initial delays and cancellations continued to cause headaches into the weekend, with long lines and jumbled communications from agents.

“The communication in the terminal that day was horrible,” one passenger says. “Agents were getting snippy and frustrated. The problems just compounded and compounded.”

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly issued an apology to affected passengers, noting that the long lines and canceled flights were not what the airline wants to be known for.

“This is not the kind of service that we’re famous for at Southwest Airlines,” Kelly said last week, estimating that the glitch would cost the company about $10 million in lost business. “This is all on us.”

Despite the issues, some passengers shrugged off the delays, chalking it up to “mistakes happen.”

“They tried to do what they can but they’re just the people on the front line. They’re not in charge,” a man who spent Wednesday night at Chicago’s Midway Airport said, noting that Southwest employees handed out blankets to stranded passengers.

“It’s rough, but it’s not the worst I’ve faced when traveling,” the man says.

We’ll just drive 12 hours: Passenger tales from Southwest Airlines’ tech outage [The Dallas Morning News]