I have to say well done Southwest after the intense thunderstorms on Friday May 19th.
Southwest saved the day twice after I was on 3 different flights that I got cancelled from on the same night !!
I was in Las Vegas hoping to head home after a week of work. I was on AA flight 1871 flying at 16h50 and landing at about 21h30 in Dallas.
That was the start of a very intense evening which ended with me being on all those flights that got cancelled, buying points to top up my balance and then landing at Love Field at 01h20 in the morning. Of course on any normal Saturday morning after a week away this would have been fine. Get home late, sleep late and then carry on with my weekend.
A quiet weekend away with my wife ?:
This was the weekend I had arranged to fly to Palm Springs at 07h20 on Saturday morning with my wife for a weekend getaway. The dates ended up being chosen by work restrictions and the fact that I had a 50,000 point voucher from Marriott Bonvoy which was expiring on 26 May.
I had had 3 x 50,000 point vouchers, using the first 2 for nights at the St Regis in Bangkok. I would recommend everyone to stay at this hotel sometime, it was wonderful.
As a result of this I thought to myself, “why not stay at a local St Regis hotel ?”. Well, not so easy. It seems it costs much more to stay at most US based St Regis hotels. My surprise was that it cost 88,000 points per night to stay at the St Regis, Palm Springs on the dates I wanted. I was quite shocked by this, I cannot fathom how that hotel would be double as good as the one in Bangkok seeing as it was costing double the points.
So I carried on looking and then saw the Westin, Rancho Mirage, Resort and Spa. It seemed to be a nice resort type hotel with spa and golf course and pool complex so I booked it. (There will be a separate review of our stay at this Westin.) We booked 2 tickets on Southwest using my wife’s Companion Pass and so were ready to fly from Dallas but now I am stuck in Las Vegas.
Back to me trying to leave Las Vegas:
I was booked on AA flight 1871 departing at 16h50 and landing at about 21h30. Then the delay messages started. First AA 1871 delayed to 17h08. Then AA 1871 delayed to 18h00. And AA 1871 delayed to 18h50. Finally AA 1871 delayed to 19h05.
I was staying at the Wynn and had arranged checkout for 15h30. I had originally planned to leave the hotel at 14h15 to drop off the rental car and then check-in for the flight. As each delay happened I was able to stay on in my room waiting. Once the delay to 18h50 happened I got worried that the flight might end up being cancelled. Now some of the next time details might not be 100% accurate as it got a bit complicated from here on but I will list it as I remember. On the app I tried to book a flight which was flying at 18h00 but for some reason it put my booking on hold, it would not confirm the flight.
I rushed off to the airport, totally forgetting that the car rental place in Las Vegas is a ways away from the airport. So I had to deviate to the car rental return place, check the car back in, wait in line for the bus to the airport and then ride the bus. All the while my battery was draining from 20% power left. After having to pause while I was driving I was back trying to confirm the flight. I was not able to and it eventually disappeared from my list.
The lovely gate agent Miriama:
I was told by the lovely American Airlines agent named Miriama that it was because I had not confirmed within 30 minutes. That is all good and well but my MyCWT site was convinced that I was on the flight and kept on giving me updates on the progress of the flight. Well, that flight was also eventually cancelled.
By now I had been informed that there were intense thunderstorms over Texas and there were all sorts of delays because of flights not being able to land or take off from Dallas. I was convinced that I was not going to get to Dallas in time for my flight to Palm Springs at 07h20. Sometime around this time my original flight AA 1871 was also cancelled.
I had by now taken over Miriama’s counter as I was asking her about either flights to Dallas after midnight or flights directly from Las Vegas to Palm Springs. Interestingly American does not fly to Palm Springs from Las Vegas even though it is so close. I would have to take an indirect flight. There was one via Miami. Yes Miami. I would have to fly to the other side of the country to get a flight to Palm Springs. I was not sure if that was a good idea as in a worst case scenario I could even hire a rental car and get to Palm Springs quicker.
Flying to Dallas after midnight !
So by that point because of the original cancellation American now had me rescheduled on AA flight AA 2649 which was to take off at 05h00 and land at DFW at 09h30. That was no good. Now I was dealing with agent Tina who was also lovely and helpful. She got me cancelled from AA 2649 and tried to help me get booked on AA 2526 that looked like it would take off at 00h30 and get me to Dallas by about 05h15. My wife could then pick me up at DFW and we could go on to Love Field for our Southwest flight to Palm Springs at 07h20. Cutting it fine but still feasible.
By now there were flights being cancelled all over the board as one by one flights were not taking off from Dallas and so were not going to be landing at Las Vegas in time for their onward flight. The thunderstorms in Dallas were scheduled to run until around midnight and so with pilots and flight crews running out of time there were not going to be many flights from Dallas until the normally scheduled flights on Saturday morning. Unluckily AA 2526 also got cancelled.
Southwest to my rescue:
Now Southwest would save the day for the first time.
By now I was thinking about other ways to get to Dallas and so I thought about Southwest. I tried to book a flight on SW 611 departing at about 17h35 and landing at about 22h10 but did not have enough points. So there I was sitting against the wall in Las Vegas airport where I know there is a secret wall plug that I can use to power up my phone (which by this time was down to about 3% power). In 2009 I had first used this spot to power my computer watching movies overnight while I waited for a normally booked flight at 8am after I had arrived in Vegas at 9pm. I have used it many times since. It is one of the few power plugs available outside security.
I bought 6000 points for $90, which was normally $180 dollars but there was a sale on. Lucky me !!! Back to my booking. Luckily the Southwest points updated quickly and I was able to go ahead with booking flight SW 611.
Then the delays started with this flight too. SW 611 delayed to 18h54.
Then SW 611 delayed to 19h18.
SW 611 delayed to 20h06.
On this board you can see there are at least 14 flights delayed by more than an hour and 3 flights cancelled.
I had every expectation that this Southwest flight would also be cancelled. But it wasn’t. Eventually a plane pulled into the gate and we were told to start boarding at about 19h48. Strangely enough with all the people affected by the cancellations this flight was only 2/3 full.
As a result of the flight being so late there were some taxi delays and we eventually took off at about 20h50. We landed at Love Field at about 01h20 and parked at Gate 12.
There was still a lot of activity at the airport at that time because of all the people impacted by the storm. My flight was still flying on to Kansas City at about 01h55 (only 2 hours late) and the passengers were drearily waiting to board.
On walking out to the baggage area there were so many passengers draped all over couches and leaning against walls watching videos or sleeping. They had all been affected by the delays and were waiting for the next morning.
I waited for my luggage, called a Lyft driver and got home at about 02h20, then hopped into bed and slept for 2 hours before getting up in time to leave for the airport at 5.
Southwest to the big rescue:
Now Southwest would save the day for everyone.
Under every normal circumstance I would not have experienced what I did at Love Field that morning. I would still have been tucked up in bed catching up on sleep but for my trip to Palm Springs at 07h20..
On arriving at the terminal it was unbelievable how many people were there. There were about a hundred people in line to be helped by the counter agents. There were also about 80 people in line to check in their bags and this was in the section where you self check in, print the tag, attach it yourself and then stand in a (normally) short line to have your id checked and have the bag checked in.
Southwest had brought in all the troops:
The really cool thing was I could see that Southwest had pulled out all the stops. There were agents at every counter to help with re-bookings and to help with checking bags.
And then security. All the security gates were manned, every x-ray machine was active and there were agents everywhere. There were hundreds of people in the general line and my wife joined the end of that line. I went through TSA-Pre, there were at least 30 people ahead of me but the line went smoothly. The general line was interesting to watch. There was a continual movement of people moving forward.
I imagine Southwest had called almost every employee they could gather to be at Love Field so early to help that Saturday morning. It was a very impressive performance by everyone involved. I did not see any passengers getting upset, and I am sure that was because they could see that the lines for baggage and security were moving so quickly and smoothly. I waited about 15 or so minutes and my wife came through normal security. There were more than a hundred people in line before her and it took her less than 20 minutes to get through the id check line and then through the security machines. I have seen lines like that take over an hour in Orlando.
There were many flights taking off early, I am not sure if Southwest had booked extra flights or not, it definitely seemed like it.
Our plane to Palm Springs via Phoenix took off on time.
So well done Southwest after the intense thunderstorms. You handled it very well and those few thousand people on Saturday morning must have been very grateful for your actions. It was a job very well done.