A simple inexpensive vacation turned into a nightmare for customers of Southwest Airlines recently and is making national news. About 180 passengers were set to take a return flight from the Dominican Republic airport of Punta Cana this past Sunday and encountered a three-day nightmare. It all started when the jet was fully loaded and the crew announced there was a mechanical issue. Many passengers hoped that it would be fixed but soon it was evident that the plane was not going to leave. The passengers were informed that the flight would be canceled and another jet would depart the next day. No one wanted to be in an unsafe plane so they took it in stride when Southwest announced that they would be placed in paid hotel rooms. They waited on the tarmac for 90 minutes for transportation.
People were told to get on a bus but did not know what hotel had been booked for them. When they arrived at the ramshackle destination hotel, they were shocked. Customers found themselves in filthy rooms infested with roaches, dirty sheets, and in some cases feces and blood stains on the wall and floors. To add insult to injury, some also had to share the rooms with complete strangers.
The next morning they went back to the airport for the return flight to Atlanta and again something was amiss. Passengers reported waiting for two hours on the hot plane which ran out of ice and water. Then another announcement came stating that there was a mechanical issue with that plane also and the flight was canceled. The passengers were faced another day at the hotel in Punta Cana; some decided to pay out of pocket to go to another hotel or take another airline back to the United States.
After suffering for two days a new plane arrived and Southwest passengers thought they would finally be heading home, they were wrong. That flight was canceled because the crew had reached the maximum number of flight hours allowed and the return flight was delayed several hours. Exhausted and frustrated customers were given a document from the airline that stated they would be reimbursed 400 percent for their one-way ticket back to Atlanta. But when they finally arrived and attempted to get answers from Southwest Airlines about their refund they got another shock. The document read that the reimbursement was for “Denied Boarding” and since their flight was canceled they would only get the cost of their ticket and a $400 coupon to fly Southwest Airlines for a future flight.
The outraged customers created a Facebook group page called “Stranded in Punta Cana” detailing their ordeal and posting pictures and videos. Some are now looking into a class action lawsuit against the airline to recover out of pocket expenses, lost work time and in at least one case a lost job. Southwest Airlines has issued an apology to the affected customers and has been communicating via email regarding complaints. But for now, it seems the vacationers well not be properly compensated for their three-day nightmare.