Sud-Ouest canceled my return flight. It was a travel nightmare.

  • Brady Goodman-Williams, a recruiter in Los Angeles, booked a flight southwest to see his mother over Christmas.
  • While traveling, Southwest canceled thousands of flights and left passengers stranded.
  • Goodman-Williams spent 41 hours traveling, spent one night in Las Vegas and never got to see her mother.

This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Brady Goodman-Williams, a 25-year-old recruiter living in Los Angeles. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m Jewish, but all I wanted for Christmas was to go visit my mom in my hometown of Denver. Luckily for me, it’s only a two and a half hour flight from Los Angeles, where I live and work.

But when I showed up at the airport on Christmas morning to check in for my Southwest Airlines flight, I was told it was cancelled. Little did I know this was the start of what would end up being a 41 hour journey…to the starting point.

I was really surprised to learn that my flight from LAX was canceled

I hadn’t received a text or email or anything informing me of the cancellation in advance. If I had, I might not have left my apartment at all.

A line of customers from the South West.

Courtesy of Brady Goodman-Williams



But since it was, I decided to see if I could get to Denver another way. I was put on a flight from Burbank Airport, another airport in Los Angeles, which cost $50 on Uber to get there. When I came to Burbank it was a zoo. I started to get really worried when I heard people saying they were still waiting to be re-booked on their flights from the day before.

My new flight was supposed to take off from Burbank at 9.

The flight was delayed. First, the delay was only 20 minutes…then 30 minutes…then an hour. Eventually, I was told that my flight was cancelled.

I waited in line to be rebooked through Las Vegas. It wasn’t even noon yet, so I figured I still had a good chance of getting to Denver. I had already checked my bag, which was worrying, but figured it would be waiting for me in Denver when I got there. If I could at least get to Las Vegas, I’d probably be able to figure it out because Las Vegas is a major hub for the southwest.

I took a diverted flight to Vegas – but even that couldn’t save me

While I was in the air, my flight from Las Vegas to Denver was cancelled. I was rebooked for a flight out of Vegas at 8:40 that evening, which would already bring my total travel time to over 14 hours.

A line for rental cars in Las Vegas

A line for rental cars in Las Vegas.

Courtesy of Brady Goodman-Williams



Las Vegas airport was a nightmare. People were beside themselves. Babies were crying, people were fighting with each other and with the gate attendants, and there was nowhere to sit. It was as if the airport staff didn’t know what to do with the volume of passengers.

It was total chaos – and then it got worse

My 8:40 p.m. flight was cancelled. I left the terminal to go back to the check-in area to try to rebook and saw that the rebooking line was the longest I had been on that day. It took over three hours.

By then it was 10pm and a worker from the southwest picked up the megaphone to tell us that their system was down and they couldn’t book anyone anymore. The worker said he would consider refunds, however, and if we wanted to be considered for a refund, we had to start a new line.

People lost their minds over refunds and were literally jostling each other

Elbows and fists were thrown. The couple behind me were arguing so much I thought they might divorce.

I finally got a partial refund on my ticket, the logic behind the partial refund being that they partially got me to my destination by taking me to Las Vegas which is on the way to Denver from Los Angeles.

I was given a $250 voucher for a $350 ticket. I booked a hotel for the night in Vegas and rented a car for nearly $300 to return to Los Angeles the next day.

I was not the only one who had the idea of ​​renting a car to go home

Queuing for my rental took over three hours and then the drive back to Los Angeles took seven hours instead of the usual four due to holiday traffic.

The bags at LAX when Goodman-Williams returned - none of which were his

The bags at LAX when Goodman-Williams returned – none of which were his.

Courtesy of Brady Goodman-Williams



When I got back to Los Angeles International Airport, I went to talk to someone about my bag, but they didn’t have a solid answer. They knew my bag had arrived in Denver, but they didn’t know when it would be back in Los Angeles.

I’ve always flown southwest, but this made me totally rethink everything

I’m grateful to have enough financial cushion to be able to afford a hotel and rental car, but I really feel for the people who didn’t have that choice. Southwest says they’ll refund “reasonable requests,” but I’m not holding my breath.

This whole situation was just a huge disappointment, especially as a loyal Southwest brand. I lost time with my mom over the holidays because of their scheduling issues, and I’m still waiting to see if I’ll ever see my bag again.

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