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What Can Stranded Travelers Expect From Southwest?

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They’re in a more complicated category.

Though Southwest said in its email that it could honor “reasonable requests” for “alternate transportation,” Southwest typically doesn’t rebook passengers on competitors’ flights, unlike legacy carriers like Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, amongst others.

But Mr. Buttigieg said in his letter that “Southwest has stated that it is going to honor reasonable requests for reimbursement for alternate transportation, similar to other airline tickets, Amtrak, or rental cars.”

“It’s going to be a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Mann predicted. Booking an expensive flight might illustrate to the airline you had a serious obligation you couldn’t miss, he said. “My advice is to carry onto your receipts, use the Southwest tool, and see the way it goes,” he said.

“I needed to rebook on United,” said Michael Quidort, 32, who was traveling home from Raleigh, N.C., to Chicago when his Southwest flight was canceled. He said he paid United $295, but his original flight was $140, and when he tried to submit a claim, the Southwest system kept crashing. He plans to maintain trying, but said he’s “not that hopeful” that he’ll get reimbursed. “All the pieces has just been a large number with them and I don’t have numerous faith in them turning this around any time soon,” he said.

Reimbursing passengers for meals and alternate transportation is one thing, but there’s also a human cost to the airline’s meltdown, said Katy Nastro, a travel expert with Scott’s Low-cost Flights, which alerts members to airfare deals. “Some people don’t get the pliability of with the ability to take time without work each time they need,” she said. “Your holiday period is one in every of the one periods you may depend on and plan and save for a visit.”

How people might be compensated for those losses is unclear.

Ms. Nastro also wondered whether passengers who incurred nonrefundable expenses — including for Airbnbs and all-inclusive hotels — could be covered under Southwest’s vague reimbursement policy. “I don’t know,” she said, “but there are numerous cases like this.”

Caroline Neary’s flight from Houston to West Palm Beach, Fla., wasn’t canceled or delayed. But while the Ph.D. student arrived home on time, her baggage still has not arrived; she ended up wearing her mother’s clothes for the vacation. And, she said, she has spent $500 on clothes, toiletries and a suitcase so she could finish her travels. Ms. Neary said she spoke to Southwest on Monday to report the missing baggage, but she didn’t expect to see it again for weeks. “Allegedly it’s in Baltimore,” she said by text message.

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