Horrifying Stories From Disney Guests Impacted by Southwest Airlines Meltdown

in Travel, Walt Disney World

Minnie Mouse poses in front of a Southwest airplane.

Credit: Southwest Airlines

As we shared on Tuesday, Southwest Airlines is amid a total meltdown following a historic winter storm this week. Thousands of flights are being canceled per day. The breakdown is so severe that the Rapid Rewards airline is facing an investigation by the United States Department of Transportation.

Related: Why you should take a Disney Cruise from New York City

Following fierce winter storms across the United States last week, thousands of passengers across the country have found themselves stranded at airports and hotels. Many of them have lost their luggage with no timeline for when they’ll get it back.

A southwest plane flies with text reading "CANCELLED" added over it.

Though many airlines experienced cancellations and delays due to the blizzard – Buffalo Niagara International Airport hasn’t reopened due to the impact of the once-in-a-lifetime storm – Southwest Airlines is the worst of them all.

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Per Denver news station KDVR, flight attendants out of Denver International Airport claim that outdated scheduling software is the reason for cancellations, lost baggage, and stranded customers. Most airlines have been able to recover from the storm, while Southwest continues to cancel flights from destinations unaffected by the weather like Southern California.

Mickey Mouse poses in front of a Southwest Airlines plane decorated for Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary.
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

One of the most popular budget airlines in the country, Southwest is beloved among frequent fliers for its friendly customer service, free checked baggage, and even a few magical collaborations with Walt Disney World Resort. But now, the airline is wreaking havoc on Disney Parks Guests.

Related: Birthplace of Disney Animation, Walt’s First Los Angeles Home, Being Restored

Guests at Orlando International Airport cannot rebook until at least New Year’s Eve and may have to wait longer, pending availability. Thousands of Walt Disney World Resort Guests are among those impacted by this unprecedented Southwest Airlines fiasco.

southwest plane on tarmac
Credit: Southwest Airlines

These are stories from Guests stranded by Southwest Airlines.

Stuck at Walt Disney World Resort

Southwest WDW Contest
Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World Resort does its best to accommodate stranded travelers, who will likely be relocated to any available Resort hotel rooms. This event coincides with the busiest time of year at the Florida Disney Park. Most of the Disney Parks sell out for the week between Christmas and New Years’ Eve months in advance.

Related: Disneyland Fight Update: Las Vegas Man Given Jail Sentence

Nadia Rasul was already on her plane to Ohio when the pilot announced that there were no flight attendants in Orlando that could service the aircraft. “So we had to get off the flight, so we got off the plane, and we said we want our suitcases now, and they said there is no way to get your suitcases,” Rasul told WESH2.

two southwest airlines planes flying above clouds
Credit: Southwest Airlines

Twitter user Miguel O. Sanchez (@miguelwvu) and his four family members have been stranded at Walt Disney World Resort since December 23. He used the social media site to beg the Disney Park for some “pixie dust” or a job to do while stuck in Central Florida:

@Disney @WaltDisneyWorld @WaltDisneyCo since I’ve been stranded by @SouthwestAirsince Dec 23 2022 was wonder if you have any pixie dust left to help our family of 5. Do you currently have jobs for an educator, I have 17 yrs of teaching experience. I figured since I’m here to ask

Bridget (@virgoprincess7) also pleaded for assistance on Twitter after being stuck in Orlando with her quadriplegic son and 80-year-old diabetic father. She said Southwest Airlines refused to help her family:

Need Help!!! Stranded in Orlando. Still nothing from Southwest Airlines. Quadriplegic son and 80 year old Dad (diabetic) Southwest hasn’t helped with anything!!!!@SouthwestAir@FOX13News@CBSNews@KHOU@Disney@cnnbrk@HoustonRockets@SylvesterTurner@KHOU @abcnews

Unfortunately, neither The Walt Disney Company nor Southwest Airlines responded to these desperate pleas from Guests.

The new Magic Kingdom Central Plaza area between Main Street, U.S.A. and Cinderella Castle is now open to guests. The new landscaping is the first milestone of a multi-phase project that features sculpted gardens, charming fountains and winding pathways. This area is designed to be reminiscent of castle gardens and offers extraordinary viewing locations for parades and fireworks. Magic Kingdom is located at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
Credit: Disney

Patti Colb finally gave up on her Southwest Airlines flight and drove 14 hours back to Washington, D.C., from Walt Disney World Resort after her flight was canceled. It took days to recover her luggage, which contained Christmas presents for her grandchildren. NBC reporter Dominique Moody shared her story:

After days of waiting to claim her bags from Southwest, Patti Colb finally has her suitcases including her granddaughters Christmas gifts from Disney World. She mentions that she and her family drove 14 hours back to DC after having her flight canceled. @nbcwashington

Traveling to Walt Disney World Resort

mom taking picture of two daughters by cinderella castle at disney world
Credit: Disney

Related: Flight Attendant Hospitalized After Confrontation With Passenger Holding Child

Travelers to Walt Disney World Resort have been impacted, too. Redditor u/Cyclosarin88 was scheduled to visit Walt Disney World Resort this week when Southwest Airlines unexpectedly canceled their 5:30 a.m. flight.

“Most people would call it quits…. But my in-laws, toddler, wife, and I are making the 20 hour drive instead,” the Guest wrote. “Disney better bring on the magic when we get there!”

mickey mouse in front of cinderella castle
Credit: Disney

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Twitter user Tammy McDugle (@McDugleTammy) also drove to Walt Disney World Resort after Southwest Airlines canceled her flight. She claimed Southwest Airlines told her family “for hours” that a crew was coming to fly their plane before the flight cancellation. Unfortunately, the delay means she will miss part of her vacation:

@PeteButtigieg thank you for speaking to the CEO of Southwest Airlines! We are driving to Orlando tonight due to a canceled flight. For hours we were told they were putting a crew together and flight was on time! Now we will miss a night and day at disney! So disappointed.

Others, unfortunately, won’t make their trips. Darren OBrien (@DarrenOBrien17) recalled sharing the heartbreaking news that their dream Walt Disney World Resort vacation was canceled with his children:

I had to explain to three bawling children that we aren’t going to Disneyworld because southwest cancelled our flight today. Other flights left from Chicago – so it’s not weather. No way to rebook – busy or disconnected. No response. magical trip ruined. @SouthwestAir #USDOT

Reporter Jason Smith shared a similar story of a grandmother and granddaughter, Kristy and Ashlynn, sitting at the gate when they realized they wouldn’t be going on their magical vacation:

Kristy was prepared to take her 6-year-old granddaughter, Ashlynn, to Disney World for the first time today before they got word of their Southwest flight being cancelled.

I asked if there was something Southwest could do to remedy the situation. “You can’t replace first-time memories,” Kristy said.

Travelers are encouraged to file a consumer complaint with the United States Department of Transportation if Southwest Airlines fails to comply with their customer service plan.

Have you been impacted by the Southwest Airlines meltdown this week? Please share your experience with us in the comments. 

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