LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — While thousands of Southwest Airlines customers remain stranded after the Christmas holiday, some have finally made it back home. However, the travel there was anything but a Christmas miracle.
Amongst the sea of unclaimed bags outside Southwest baggage services, officers at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) sit those of the Roberson family. Jessica Roberson, along with her fiancé, four-year-old daughter and seven-month-old son are in the midst of moving closer to family in New Ridgeville, Ohio from Las Vegas.
The family, along with Jessica’s sister, reserved a direct flight with Southwest on Christmas Eve morning to Cleveland, Ohio from LAS. However, flight after flight was delayed, canceled, rebooked, then canceled again over two days.
“I probably spent 10 hours, 11 hours in the airport,” Jessica said during a virtual interview, counting a stack of boarding tickets. “I actually have probably a wallet here of all the tickets they rescheduled us for.”
The constant delays and cancellations forced several Uber trips, equating to hundreds of dollars over two days, between their old apartment and the airport. Her children’s car seats, along with the rest of their belongings, remained at the airport against their will.
She said the original plan was to transport as many of their belongings on this direct flight via checked bags. They would return in the new year to collect the rest of their belongings and drive back to Ohio.
A majority of the family’s clothes, Jessica’s fiancé’s new Xbox, medication for Jessica’s ovarian cancer diagnosis, and more were contained in these checked bags, she said. The last time she saw them was during the check-in process Saturday morning.
“They were screaming at us. They were telling people to sit down,” Jessica said, describing how the Southwest Airline attendants handled the hoards of flyers looking for assistance after flight cancellations. “They got on a PA system and said, ‘we will not compensate you, so if you are in line for compensation, get out of it. We are not getting you your bags off the plane. We will not be getting your car seats off the plane.’”
Finally, they were rescheduled on a flight to Chicago with a connecting flight to Cleveland. The connecting flight was canceled upon arrival in Illinois.
So, the Robinsons decided to rent a car to complete the last leg of their journey, an estimated five-hour drive through snow. After waiting hours for the rental, that rental broke en route home.
“They basically gave us a car that had flat tire issues. All they did was take the spare off, put it in the trunk, it still had snow on it, and filled air into this tire,” Jessica said. “The check tire pressure light was on, so I asked the lady before we left if there was an issue, and she said ‘no, we just added air to the tire. It’s just cold.”
The five of them, already crowded together in a small car with strollers, blankets, and other belongings stored on their laps, blew a tire on an Indiana turnpike. Jessica said they purchased emergency roadside assistance coverage for the rental, but after hours of waiting, assistance never showed.
It was not until a state trooper pulled off to the side of the road two hours after the incident to help replace the broken tire with the spare tire that was seemingly already used. They then proceeded another four hours at 55 miles per hour on the 70-mile-per-hour road.
The family finally reached their new home at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, but their belongings have yet to arrive.
“It turns out they never left Las Vegas. They were never even boarded on a plane. So, it turns out they could have probably given back our bags back. They’re just sitting at the airport somewhere,” Jessica said while wearing the one jacket she has. “When we ask when they think they’ll get them here, the answer is ‘we don’t know. When they get here, we’ll let you know and we’ll deliver them.’”
The extra days and delays cost the Robersons an additional $3,000 more than they ever expected to pay, she said. While she acknowledges Southwest provided certain vouchers for these extra expenses, they did not include the vast majority of debt they now hold.
Roberson feels that she was unfairly compensated and has since hired a lawyer to address it. This, is especially so, as she said Southwest personnel did not refund many expenses with the reason being that the winter storm that canceled thousands of flights nationwide was out of their control.
Though the airline’s customer service policy does exclude reimbursement for canceled flights due to weather, the weather was potentially not the only reason for cancellation. Union representative for airline personnel told CBS News that its “outdated” scheduling software only made the cancellations worse.
Jessica, and thousands of others, feel lied to and that they deserve more.
“I had to explain to my four-year-old that Santa was basically overbooked and would be there in a couple days,” Jessica said while detailing the Christmas festivities they celebrated on Tuesday when they arrived presents shipped to Ohio. “What happened was more than just postponing people’s Christmas. It took way more than that from people and I don’t think [Southwest] understands that.”
“It’s been pretty painful. My fiancé keeps saying, ‘their logo has a heart in it, but it has been the most unkind, no love experience.”