Frustrations boil over as Southwest Airlines passengers in St. Louis see cancelations, delays, lost bags

Published: Dec. 26, 2022 at 11:48 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 26, 2022 at 1:41 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Southwest Airlines passengers in St. Louis are voicing frustration amid flight cancelations, delays, and complaints of lost baggage.

Long lines of passengers could be spotted at Terminal 2 of Lambert Airport Monday morning at the ticket counter. Similar scenes have been spotted in airports across the country as Southwest flights have been delayed and canceled. Customers have also reported issues getting refunds.

Nationwide, Southwest Airlines has canceled 70% of its flights today. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it is launching an investigation into what went wrong.

“I stood in line for 40 minutes trying to get ahold of somebody last night. The line wasn’t moving so I just said, ‘forget it we’ll try this morning.’ I’ve already been in line for two hours this morning and I still probably have a couple of hours just to talk to somebody to try to get on a flight. I already see that my destination, Columbus, they’ve already canceled two flights this morning so I don’t even know when I’m getting home,” said traveler Anthony Oglesby, who was at Terminal 2 of Lambert Airport.

St. Louis resident Bill Bell had his Southwest flight to Phoenix canceled on Friday. Bell was re-booked for a flight on Monday and spent hours in line at the ticket counter after that flight was also canceled.

“We came back today and just as we got to the airport, they canceled our flight,” Bell says. “We went down to get our baggage. They won’t release our baggage. They’re gonna send it to Phoenix and then send it back and we can come back to the airport to pick it up.”

The issue travelers tell News 4 is that flights are continuing to get canceled, leaving visitors like Oglesby stranded in St. Louis, while also being unable to change their flights online.

Oglesby spent 45 minutes waiting in line Sunday night after his flight to Columbus was canceled before leaving Lambert and coming back Monday morning. On Monday morning, he spent hours waiting in line again.

Oglesby missed work on Monday and says he can’t miss another. If Southwest doesn’t have another flight to Columbus, he plans to drive back to Ohio.

“At this point, I will probably just try to pick up my bags in Columbus,” Oglesby says. “There’s nothing critical in there.”

Meanwhile, people at the airport waited in a separate line to try to get back the bags they had already checked. The line for baggage claim also had people like Mark Stuckey waiting for hours.

“You register to tell them that your flight was canceled but I don’t get it,” Stuckey says. “They should know that. Then after you do that, all the luggage is backed up. It seems very inefficient. I don’t understand why somebody can’t let people walk back there, find their luggage, check their ID and check their tag.”

Stuckey’s family of eight was supposed to travel to Florida but after that flight was canceled, they’re desperate to get their nine bags back.

“We thought about even possibly trying to drive because we’re gonna be there for a week but unable to drive because we don’t have any luggage,” Stuckey says. “We’re just kind of stuck. It kind of ruined our whole Christmas vacation.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines sent the following statement:

While I don’t have figures from specific airports where we operate, we are still experiencing disruptions across our network as a result of Winter Storm Elliott’s lingering effects on the totality of our operation. With the weather now considerably more favorable, we continue work to stabilize and improve our operation.

We are re-accommodating as many Customers as possible, based on available space, whose itineraries have been disrupted. Those whose flights have been canceled may request a full refund or receive a flight credit, which does not expire. Information for Customers with lost baggage is here: Customers can also speak with a representative at the baggage service office in an airport where we operate or contact Southwest customer service.

Make-A-Wish family’s vacation to Disney World delayed

Zephany Bolduc, a 16-year-old girl who was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in 2019, and her family spent 18 hours standing in line at Lambert after their flight was canceled.

The Bolduc’s were headed to Disney World on a Make-A-Wish trip that Zephany was granted that had been delayed because of COVID-19.

“I’ve never seen it like this. This is crazy,” said Jennifer Bolduc.

The family arrived at Lambert at 4 a.m. to find their flight was canceled. They then rebooked their flight only to have it canceled again. They were then stuck in line waiting to get their luggage.

Despite the frustrations, the Bolduc family had a great attitude about their travel frustrations. They made friends while in line.

The family has faced real adversity watching their daughter battle leukemia. She is now in remission and the family is determined to get to Disney World.

Southwest Airlines told the family they couldn’t get them on a flight until Thursday, so Make-A-Wish has rented them a minivan.

“So as soon as we can get out of this three or four-hour line we’ll get some sleep and leave for Florida in the minivan in the morning,” said Richard Bolduc.

They’ve waited three years for Zephany to get her Make-A-Wish trip. Even if it starts late the Bolducs are determined to make it happen.

“I drive for a living, but we’re going to get there,” Richard Bolduc said while wiping away a tear.