By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Jaden Moser and her fiancé Jordan Wollin of Cheyenne were among Wyoming travelers sweating a few bullets over their upcoming travel plans.
The two watched as story after story of disastrous experiences for Southwest Airlines passengers unfolded over the week leading up to Christmas, and had to wonder if their flights were going to become casualties as well.
Moser and Wallin had bought “wanna get away” tickets awhile ago to visit family in Minneapolis over the New Year’s holiday.
These are generally non-refundable. The couple got an offer to switch out their flight for free, but they didn’t really want to miss out on the family’s big New Year’s Eve party.
“We don’t see my fiancé’s family often because he is in the Air Force stationed in Cheyenne,” Moser told Cowboy State Daily. “But we were seeing a lot of the Southwest issues on social media for the past couple of days about flights being canceled and baggage claim being a disaster.”
The couple was only slightly relieved Thursday when they received a notification from Southwest that everything was expected to be fully operational for their flight Friday morning.
Given the scope of the traffic snarl, which has prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to announce an investigation into the air travel “meltdown,” they couldn’t be certain their flight really would actually happen.
“Flight is still on time,” Moser posted on Facebook Thursday night. Three crossed-finger emoticons accompanied the message.
That morning, the two set out with luggage in tow and fingers still crossed.
“Everything went perfectly fine,” Moser said. “Our plane even landed early.”
The flight, however, only had 60 of 140 passengers on it, Moser noticed, indicating a lot of other passengers didn’t have much faith things would return to normal given the scope of the airline’s meltdown.
Southwest Airlines had canceled at least 16,000 flights since the previous Friday, according to a Reuters report, stranding passengers and crews during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, the annual Christmas holiday rush.
Southwest Offers Refunds for Car Rentals, Hotels, Meals
On Friday, the airline was showing just 41 cancellations — that’s about 1% of the total number of flights, far better than the nearly 60% cancellation rate during winter storm Elliott.
CEO Bob Jordan, during an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Friday, promised that the airline would make investments in its operational areas to improve for the future.
“There’ll be a lot of lessons learned in terms of what we can do to make sure that this never happens again,” he said. “Because this needs to never happen again.”
He also stressed the airline would make good on hotels, car rentals, flights with other airlines and even meals customers had to purchase as a result of the airline’s operational difficulties. The airline also is offering help for people who still haven’t been reunited with their luggage.
“There’s no greater focus beyond safety than taking care of customers,” he said. “We’re offering refunds, covering expenses. We’ll be going back out with even more after that.”