It’s an inquiry disappointed Southwest Airlines travelers have bombarded the airline with in the wake of heavy Max 8 flight cancellations and limited rebooking choices amid the bustling spring break travel season.
“Why can’t you put me on another airline?”
The answer: Southwest doesn’t do that as an issue of policy.
In airline jargon, Southwest doesn’t have interline agreements with different transporters, Competitors American, Delta and United do, enabling them to effortlessly exchange travelers to a competing carrier, however their inclination is to rebook travelers all alone flights or an accomplice airline.
Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said interlining is not consistent with Southwest’s business model of dealing directly with travelers. It doesn’t sell tickets through online travel agencies, for example, sending travelers to its website.
“We can’t control their experience on another airline,” Mainz said. “It’s a philosophical approach to the customer experience.”
Southwest, similar to all bearers, offers travelers a discount for canceled flights on the off chance that they don’t care for the rebooking options. But the refund generally doesn’t cover the cost of a new flight since last minute tickets are airline’s priciest tickets.
Mainz said there are “rare, extreme” conditions where Southwest will consider placing travelers in on different airlines. He didn’t give any instances of uncontrollable issues at hand but to state they would incorporate circumstances where the airline has come up short on choices for clients with a dire travel need.
Charlie Leocha, chairman of consumer team Travelers United, said the lack of interlining is not usually a problem for Southwest passengers because the nation’s largest domestic carrier has frequent flights on most routes.
“They’ve got so many flights that they normally can move people,” he said.
Southwest isn’t the main bearer that doesn’t have interline agreements. Markdown transporters Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant don’t interline.
Those bearers state they will put travelers on other airlines as required, particularly when the flight cancellation out was the airline’s fault, for example, a mechanical issue, yet policies vary by airline.
“While we don’t have interline agreements, we absolutely put our guests on other airlines if our guest solutions team believes the situation warrants it and we are not able to reaccommodate on Spirit within a reasonable time,” Spirit spokesman Derek Dombrowski said.
Frontier representative Jonathan Freed said travelers whose flights are canceled because of conditions in Frontier’s control now and again get a voucher for movement on another airline or a rental car, contingent upon the conditions. An email from the airline guides them to a site where they can rebook on another airline, or the airline’s customer service agents can handle the rebooking, Freed said.
Allegiant generally doesn’t put passengers on other airlines after it cancels a flight but will, on rare occasions, provide vouchers that can be used on another airline if the canceled flight was not rescheduled, spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said.
Consumer groups including Travelers United have been contending for the arrival of the alleged reciprocity rule, which took into consideration simple traveler move between airlines on account of flight cancellations and delays. It went away when the industry was deregulated in 1978.
Airlines don’t want to bring it back, Leocha said.
“They just think that’s too much regulation,” he said. “I don’t expect the DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) is going to take any action. I can pretty much assure you they’re not going to do anything.”
Leocha’s guidance for stranded travelers on any aircraft: It doesn’t hurt to request to be put on another carrier. It’s not as simple as it used to be, and you’ll hear a theme of no’s, even on airlines with interline agreements. But it’s worth a shot in desperate circumstances, such as lengthy delays that will force you to miss an international connection, he said.
And be polite, not demanding.
On some carriers, Leocha said, “A lot of it has to do with how nice you are to the gate agent or ticket agent.”