Southwest cancellations especially challenging for elderly passengers, those with limited mobility

Melanie Woodrow Image
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Southwest cancellations especially challenging for elderly passengers
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One woman drove from Portland to Oakland to pick up her 78-year-old mother who was stranded after two Southwest flight cancellations.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Southwest Airlines cancellations have been especially challenging for elderly passengers and those with limited mobility.

"She says she has never had an experience like this before," said Tracy Hurst while driving her mother from Oakland to Portland.

Ida Kelly's expression says it all; the 78-year-old was stranded at Oakland International Airport after two Southwest Airlines cancellations.

VIDEO: Southwest captain explains why airline had widespread cancellation of scheduled flights across US

Her daughter and a family friend drove from Portland at 4 p.m. Monday to get her, arriving in Oakland at 2 a.m.

"This could have easily gone left. She could have gotten sick. She could have had a diabetic episode," said Hurst.

"There was zero like accountability," she continued.

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson blamed the weather.

"I think it's just the sheer size of this storm. It's just the fact that this one started west swept east and impacted almost every single one of our largest airports," said Jay McVay.

But the President of Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has said otherwise.

RELATED: Southwest continues canceling thousands of flights across US, including Bay Area airports

"Our processes, our IT, our infrastructure just wasn't there to support the operation," Captain Casey Murray said Monday.

Hurst is commending individual Southwest employees who she says stayed with her mother until she got a shuttle to take her to a hotel room that Hurst paid for, where from out of state she DoorDashed her mother food.

"I think what makes this unique is my mom is an elderly woman and she was not prioritized," said Hurst.

"Luckily she had someone who was trying to help her out from home but what if she didn't have that? What if I didn't have the means to put her in a hotel," she continued.

Trudy Hill says she also struggled.

"It wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't like partly handicapped but I felt really stranded and alone until someone stepped up to help me," said Hill who is trying to get home to Phoneix.

RELATED: Southwest Airlines cancels at least 70% of flights leaving travelers stranded, call centers swamped

That person, a Southwest employee who asked Hill if she needed help.

"It was not her duty to push people in wheelchairs but she literally stuck with me the whole way until she got me curbside," said Hill.

Where her daughter picked her up and later went back for her bags.

"There were hundreds of suitcases, hundreds," said Tessa Bajema who lives in Alameda.

For all the bags in plain sight, it seems just as many are missing.

Tracy Pickford says her daughter's medication is in one of those displaced bags, possibly on its way to the Bay Area.

"My daughter takes medication on a daily basis and since we're not in El Salvador where her daughter is it's a little tricky on getting a replacement medication. And so yeah scrambling to get her the medication she needs and worrying about that is stressful," said Pickford.

A travel nightmare that some say has been worse for vulnerable passengers with the U.S. Department of Transportation now looking into it.

Southwest has opened a self-service tool to help travelers impacted by their travel disruptions. If your flight has been significantly delayed or canceled, visit Southwest Airlines' website here to request a refund and other services you are entitled to.

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