How Southwest Airlines stranded a bride for her own wedding

My husband and I were back to our old ways: buying tickets in a panic and scrambling to cancel the now-unscheduled flights. How could we be so impulsive? What could possibly go wrong? Luckily,…

How Southwest Airlines stranded a bride for her own wedding

My husband and I were back to our old ways: buying tickets in a panic and scrambling to cancel the now-unscheduled flights.

How could we be so impulsive? What could possibly go wrong?

Luckily, our travel agent had more experience booking business flights than private travel. He called Southwest Airlines and rebooked our entire family on his office’s flights. My sisters and I were not told which flights the airline booked, though I did learn that it was close to one I already knew we could avoid.

As happy as I was that we were spared the ordeal, my feelings were not entirely joyful. Back in 2005, I flew Southwest from LAX to Mesa, Arizona, where I tied the knot to my now-husband. Six years later, we moved to Washington, D.C., where I started my job and rented a studio on Capitol Hill. All the flights we planned to take to get back to Phoenix had gone to corporate clients. I’d gotten fed up with Southwest’s notoriously slow and confusing call centers, and this time, she refused to even give me a name when I called.

Why had this company, better known for getting you into work on time, cancelled my wedding? Why didn’t it even give me a name?

“Well, we did pick your flight,” the agent said.

I was adamant that we needed to get to Arizona. We were engaged, and my wedding day was drawing closer.

“Okay,” she said. “We need to cancel the flights for safety reasons. It’s going to be too late for you to fly to Phoenix on Dec. 15.”

She broke the news over the phone with no specifics. I knew for sure that we would miss my wedding because of airline staff. I would have to do all my research on the internet, or think of a way to reschedule the ceremony so that we could still get married at sunset. If we missed the ceremony, I was resigned to missing a nice Italian dinner or maybe the after-party. But to lose the whole day?! What would people think?

A little late for her flight, I drove back to LAX from Arizona and returned to the only travel agent still present. She told me she’d call Southwest to reschedule our flights to Nov. 24, two days after our wedding. And as if we hadn’t already exhausted any other options, she took $150 out of my account in hopes of getting my money back.

I ended up fighting it all. When I finally called Southwest, I explained how infuriating it was that they held us hostage. But the airline’s representative, a woman named Amy, was sympathetic. She explained that if Southwest overbooked, no one would be removed from the plane. In fact, we would get a $200 voucher in the mail within the week. She then even offered a business-class voucher for me and my bridesmaids to try to get back to Phoenix.

Amy was a miracle. We drove to D.C. all wrapped up in wedding attire, shopped for an apartment, got dressed up and, after what I thought would be a month’s worth of stressful planning, arrived in Phoenix just in time for our ceremony. I wrote the rest of the wedding into the contract, and when we lost our matching pants with a Southwest tie, we got our wedding photos in a rental place.

Of course, with Southwest having been notorious for late flights and bad customer service, that miracle didn’t guarantee we wouldn’t be caught off guard again.

On my return flight, I was greeted with a deluge of customer service phone calls. The woman on the other end explained that the airline was having all kinds of problems and was totally overwhelmed. I told her that she’d helped my family so much. Maybe the airline could send a representative for a house call. She laughed.

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