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Southwest changed my flight due to social distancing

Southwest changed my flight due to social distancing

Old Jun 13, 20, 11:39 am
  #1  
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Southwest changed my flight due to social distancing

I booked a flight on southwest 3 weeks ago. About two weeks later (a week before the flight), I received an email stating there had been a "schedule change" and I was moved to a flight that will depart a little more than two hours later.

While ordinarily this would be no big deal, due to certain circumstances, this will be very inconvenient to me. All other flights on other airlines are sold out, so I have no choice now but to take the later flight.

I checked the website and saw that the original flight is indeed flying, just without me. I called and the agent confirmed that the change was made due to "social distancing" requirements. The agent could not tell me why I, specifically, was selected and also told me that nothing could be done to get me on the earlier flight.

I'm wondering why Southwest booked me on the original flight to begin with when I could have chosen to fly another airline that had availability at the time? Surely Southwest had a "social distancing" plan in place when I made the reservation 3 weeks ago and knew how many other people had already made reservations. I suppose there's no way to get me on the earlier flight? I'm generally pretty flexible, but it irritates me that Southwest had to have known this was an issue at the time of reservation yet they took my money anyway and didn't notify me of the change until other options were not available.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 11:44 am
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Thinking about this some more, what prevents an airline from switching a passenger to another flight a week prior to departure when the original flight is overbooked and the airline wants to avoid paying denied boarding compensation. After all, in my situation, the original flight is still going...just without me.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 11:57 am
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I presume you have no status at Southwest? Presumably that's one qualifier (ie, people with status presumably are not first in line to get changed to a different flight).

I presume you paid a Wanna Get Away fare? Presumably that's one qualifier (ie, people who paid a higher category of fare presumably are not first in line to get changed to a different flight).

Did you buy a sale fare? Presumably that's one qualifier (ie, people who buy sale fares typically care less about the exact timing and more about the fare, and so they are presumably first in line to get changed to a different flight).
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Old Jun 13, 20, 11:58 am
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1) Go the day before?
2) Get a full refund?
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Old Jun 13, 20, 12:07 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
I presume you have no status at Southwest? Presumably that's one qualifier (ie, people with status presumably are not first in line to get changed to a different flight).

I presume you paid a Wanna Get Away fare? Presumably that's one qualifier (ie, people who paid a higher category of fare presumably are not first in line to get changed to a different flight).

Did you buy a sale fare? Presumably that's one qualifier (ie, people who buy sale fares typically care less about the exact timing and more about the fare, and so they are presumably first in line to get changed to a different flight).
Yes, I purchased a wanna get away fare. Is this the criteria that is used for denied boarding for an oversold flight? I thought the airline had to ask for volunteers first?
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Old Jun 13, 20, 1:56 pm
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Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
Yes, I purchased a wanna get away fare. Is this the criteria that is used for denied boarding for an oversold flight? I thought the airline had to ask for volunteers first?
They determine that a flight is oversold at boarding time, because the whole reason some airlines overbook some flights is because of having statistics about a certain percentage of people usually not showing up at the gate. That's why can ask for volunteers, because the possible volunteers are in the gate area, and the overbooked status was not determined until there were passengers in the gate area.

But your case is about Southwest moving you to a different flight about a week before departure. So that is not a situation you can easily compare to what is done for overbooked flights.

This is an unusual situation, so it's hard to compare. United has a different policy, in that they don't limit their passenger load to a specific percentage, rather they notify you in case your flight goes over 70% load and in that case they give you free change possibilities. But since Southwest is the only major airline with open seating, so their current Covid-19 "seating" policy is different than any other airlines' policies (where they have assigned seating and can simply block certain specific seats from being purchased), and so your situation cannot be compared to the policies at other airlines (which, among other things, have the option of moving some passengers up to a higher cabin if coach is the only cabin oversold while cabins up front are undersold).
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Old Jun 13, 20, 2:10 pm
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Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
I'm wondering why Southwest booked me on the original flight to begin with when I could have chosen to fly another airline that had availability at the time?
No. You booked yourself on that flight.

Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
I suppose there's no way to get me on the earlier flight?
No. You can push back and insist to WN that the original flight will be the one you want. But keep in mind - WN has no obligation to rebook you back. Your entitlement is a full refund due to the schedule change.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 3:15 pm
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Originally Posted by garykung View Post
No. You booked yourself on that flight.



No. You can push back and insist to WN that the original flight will be the one you want. But keep in mind - WN has no obligation to rebook you back. Your entitlement is a full refund due to the schedule change.
Okay. There wasn't a schedule change in the traditional sense. The original flight still exists.

Southwest allowed me to purchase a seat on a specific flight knowing (or should have knowing) that the maximum capacity had been reached. It was only at a later time, after any opportunity to purchase an alternate flight was no longer available, that I was specifically selected to get the boot. Federal law doesn't specify that in an oversold status, which this arguably is, that the airline can deny boarding to their least valuable customers. Rather, the airline must attempt to persuade someone else to voluntarily give up their seat. If no one agrees to this then the airline must compensate the passenger who was denied.

In my case, shouldn't Southwest have sent out an email to all the passengers on the flight asking for volunteers to take a later flight??
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Old Jun 13, 20, 4:07 pm
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Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
They determine that a flight is oversold at boarding time, because the whole reason some airlines overbook some flights is because of having statistics about a certain percentage of people usually not showing up at the gate. That's why can ask for volunteers, because the possible volunteers are in the gate area, and the overbooked status was not determined until there were passengers in the gate area.
I'm wondering if those statistics have been thrown out of whack due to the pandemic. Perhaps WN is seeing much fewer no-shows/last minute cancellations lately, which have led to more oversell scenarios, and they are trying to address that by changing people's itineraries in advance.

Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
Okay. There wasn't a schedule change in the traditional sense. The original flight still exists.
Are they still selling seats on the original fight? If so, I don't see why WN would not let you move back onto that one.

But if it's showing Unavailable, then you could keep checking to see if there are any cancellations and they start selling seats again. If they do, then call WN and ask to be put back on the original flight.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 5:17 pm
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Stuff happens, especially now and especially for those who don’t have status. Just keep checking and when a seat opens up, call and switch back. Don’t overthink this. You can either keep fretting about your perceived injustice, which will yield no results, or you can seek to find a workaround. I suggest the latter.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 6:08 pm
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Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
Federal law doesn't specify that in an oversold status, which this arguably is, that the airline can deny boarding to their least valuable customers.
Not true. Specifically, airline can legally deny boarding to their least valuable customers based on 2 factors explicitly mentioned - fare and/or status. See 14 CFR 250.3.

For example:

1. An A-List with WGA is less likely to be IDBed than a regular passenger with WGA.

2. A regular passenger with Anytime is less likely to be IDBed than a regular passenger with WGA.

Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
Rather, the airline must attempt to persuade someone else to voluntarily give up their seat. If no one agrees to this then the airline must compensate the passenger who was denied.
Yes - but only at the time of boarding. In other word, what WN has done is totally legal, even questionable.

Originally Posted by CharlotteYork View Post
In my case, shouldn't Southwest have sent out an email to all the passengers on the flight asking for volunteers to take a later flight??
Not required.

Again - you can request WN to put you back to the original flight, which WN has no obligation to oblige. You are also entitled for a full refund (not travel credit). FWIW - you are not being denied boarding. Instead, your booking has been changed involuntarily.

As far as DOT concerns, no law/rule/policy etc has been broken. Your ticket constitutes a promise (i.e. not a contract) that WN will transport you without a promise of time.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 8:42 pm
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Same thing here, for my early July LAS-MDW flight. They moved me to a much later flight on the same day. If I try to use the change function through the link in the email, the earlier flight does not show up as an option. However if I go in to try to buy a flight from scratch it does show as available, but the points price has increased by about 3,300 points (nearly double the very low fare I originally booked). I haven't tried calling to see if they would move me manually back to the flight I originally had, since I'll probably end up just canceling anyway due to unrelated issues.
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Old Jun 13, 20, 10:27 pm
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In this kind of cases, you have a few days during which you can change your flight for free. Keep an eye out for seats becoming available on your original flight, and if so, then quickly change yourself back to that flight. It has worked for me.
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Old Jun 14, 20, 1:08 am
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Originally Posted by PHXflier View Post
In this kind of cases, you have a few days during which you can change your flight for free. Keep an eye out for seats becoming available on your original flight, and if so, then quickly change yourself back to that flight. It has worked for me.
It's three days from the receipt of the email message. And as I posted above, even with seats available it does not allow me to do that. YMMV.
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Old Jun 14, 20, 11:16 am
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Originally Posted by ursine1 View Post
It's three days from the receipt of the email message. And as I posted above, even with seats available it does not allow me to do that. YMMV.
If you KNOW there are seats available, and you can not switch online, call in.

If you are GUESSING there are seats available, then keep checking. People cancel flights all the time, especially right now. A seat WILL open up at some point.

As to the original question. WN put limits on the number of people on each flight. Many folks many not like it, but that is what they are doing.

We can not compare actions like what is happening right to anything in the past, or to rules or regulations or anything else.
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