Baggage Nightmare at Boston (aka Southwest Airlines terrible baggage policy)

This is a long, likely boring rant, but this story must be shared.  Typically we have good experiences with Southwest.  It used to be better.  Customer service seems to have an inverse correlation to pricing though because as prices have gone up, the luv has gone down.  This experience though … takes the cake.

The Flight:  ABQ-MDW-BOS

My husband was invited to a conference in Boston, and since I had never been, I jumped at the opportunity to tag along.  Our itinerary was fairly simple:  Leave Albuquerque at 9am, have a 45 minute layover in Chicago, then land in Boston around 4:00.  Easy peasy.  Unfortunately my insomnia was in full swing the night before so I slept not a wink.  Not.  A.  Wink.  And since I’m not a big plane sleeper I was really looking forward to wrapping up our travel day and crashing.  But that was not to be.

Flight Delayed

At 5am I looked at my phone and read a text from Southwest that our outbound flight was delayed 30 minutes.  That doesn’t allow for much time to connect to our next flight so I started looking into the next available flights to Boston.  There was a MDW-BOS flight a few hours later that we would have plenty of time to make if worse came to worst but we tossed a change of clothes into our carry-on just in case.

Fight Un-Delayed

We went to the airport on time for our originally scheduled flight and good thing because Southwest cancelled the delay.  Relieved that the slights seemed to be re-aligning we settled in.  But that too was not to be.

MDW-BOS Cancelled.  Now ABQ-MDW-STL-BOS

Upon landing in Chicago we received notices that our connecting flight was cancelled.  Ugh.  No explanation as to why.  They automatically re-routed us.  I figured it’d be that 7pm that arrived Boston at 10pm but nope.  That flight was full.  Our new itinerary is now wait two and a half hours, fly to St. Louis (with Group C boarding), enjoy a leisurely four hour layover, arrive Boston at 11:10pm (also, boarding group C).  Now I want to cry.  No sleep and a super jacked itinerary.  In Midway there is a tiny USO lounge with comfortable chairs and light snacks so we went there.  I was really hoping for a recliner so I could nap, but that too, was not meant to be.  Still, better than hanging out in the ridiculously over crowded Midway airport so, silver linings I guess.

When we got to St. Louis 4 hours later we found a pay for use lounge named Wingtips.  It is new and looked very nice, but again, no way to put up your feet and nap.  But we had a few glasses of wine and some very good (especially for the airport) light fare.  Well worth the $80 dollar cost of admission for the two of us.  When it was time to board our flight to Boston we tried to buy up to board with the A group but that was sold out.  The sympathetic gate agent gave us family boarding so we could sit together for the last flight of our miserable day so bonus points to her.

Southwest Lost Our Bags

Upon landing in Boston, 40 odd hours since I had last slept, we found that our bags hadn’t.  We went to baggage claim along with a line of other bag-less MDW-BOS travelers and were told no one knew where our bags were but if we wanted to wait around almost 3 hours until 1:45am there’s a chance that our bags would arrive on that flight.  They couldn’t know, though, because Southwest apparently does not track bags along the way.  They scan them when they’ve been checked in and when they’ve arrived at the destination, but other than that it’s whatever apparently.

Southwest Won’t Deliver Our Bags If They Find Them

If we didn’t want to wait 3 hours to see if our bags showed up on the next flight we were told to come back the next day.  Troy’s conference was starting in 9 hours and it was almost midnight.  Boston was no longer sounding as fun as it did when we booked these tickets.  I told the agent that historically when our bags were lost the airlines delivered them.  Her response:  My supervisor said no bags from the cancelled Chicago flight are to be delivered.   I asked to speak to the supervisor and was told she left a half hour ago.  So the supervisor somehow knew in advance that dozens of bags were lost, didn’t know where they were, and specifically instructed the agent to not deliver them.  Bravo.

The Baggage Agent Yelled At Us

Needless to say people were dumbstruck.  One woman was full on sobbing.  My husband asked me, since I am the world traveler in the family, what about my 8am meeting?  I answered him, “they don’t care.” At this point a different baggage agent yelled at us:  How dare you say we don’t care.  We care!  Don’t you say we don’t care.

Disbelief washed over the crowd.  No one was speaking to this woman.  She didn’t need to come to the aid of the other agent as no one was yelling at her either.  But the consensus was, if you care, get our bags to us.  But that too was not meant to be.  We were handed an incident report and were told that if we wanted our bags, we would either have to pay a courier to deliver them or come back to the airport and pick them up ourselves.

We Supposedly Voluntarily Separated From Our Bags

So we left.  Broken.  And called the 800 number on our incident report for assistance.  I asked her why Southwest didn’t deliver bags any more.  She said, We do.  But this report says you voluntary separated from our bags so it was no longer Southwest’s responsibility to deliver them.  I asked her how exactly we voluntarily separated from our bags when we were literally in the air when our flight was cancelled and automatically re-booked.  She didn’t understand either and made notes in the report that we very obviously did not voluntarily do anything and that I should call Boston Baggage the next day and ask to speak to a supervisor.

Southwest’s Policy Confirmed:  Weather Related Baggage Delay = Passengers Voluntarily Separating From Their Bags

The next day I called Boston’s baggage department and asked if they found our bags.  They had.  They arrived on the 1:45 am flight and even though we had given them our hotel information, they were still sitting there in the Boston baggage area.  I asked her how they define ‘voluntary separation’ and she said if a flight is cancelled because of weather passengers are considered to have voluntarily separated from their luggage and the airlines are no longer responsible for getting them to you.  I’m not repeating that because the words are so vile I feel like throwing up just having typed them just once.  For the record, it was raining in Boston the day before.  Raining.  No thunderstorms.  No lightening.  No tornadoes or hurricanes or volcanic eruptions or even heavy winds.  It had rained.  Rather than delaying our flight (which Southwest is super duper good at based on the fact that 80% of my SWA flights are delayed nowadays) they instead cancelled our flight, added eight ours to our travel day, had eight extra hours to figure out how to get our bags to us, didn’t, and then didn’t feel it was their responsibility to deliver our bags to our hotel.

We Paid $40 To Have Our Bags Delivered

So we paid the courier $39.95 to deliver two bags (twice actually – working on getting the duplicate charge refunded now) and ended up getting our bags 20 hours after we arrived.  I ruined my brand new not-meant-to-be-worn-in-puddles shoes walking around in the rain, had to buy a sweatshirt to keep from freezing, used horrible hotel toiletries (Marriott, it’s time to up your game with the shampoo and conditioner), and missed dinner my first night in town.

The Compensation

I reached out to Southwest via Facebook messenger and they offered a $40 LUV Voucher as a ‘gesture of goodwill.’   When I  said I really didn’t consider that to be adequate, they upped it to $75.  That will cover the courier and the sweatshirt but not my brand new ruined shoes and certainly not any time or emotional distress.  Not that I’m a gold digger but in no way to I feel compensated for the miserableness that was my Albuquerque to Boston travel day.

Take Away

Don’t check bags with Southwest if you have a layover.  Now that I have an understanding of their baggage policies if I have a layover I won’t be risking another debacle like this.  Oh, and I think I’ll be shorting their stock since this is a pretty big window into the future afaic.

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