February 5, 2023


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Cleveland travelers share their terrifying horror stories from their weekend getaway on Southwest Airlines

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Cleveland, Ohio – Sleepless nights at the airport, endless lines – even threats of arrest.

It wasn’t the vacation travel experience anyone wanted.

Many Clevelanders were caught up in the chaos of holiday travel last week, after a major winter storm caused an operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines. Other airlines have also been affected, although none have canceled nearly as much as Southwest, which canceled two-thirds of its flights in the days after Christmas.

We asked readers to share their vacation travel woes and got a lot of hurt.

Gayle and Michael Simon of Paper Pike were trying to get home from Phoenix on Christmas Day and stopped at Chicago Midway Airport, where several connecting flights to Cleveland were listed as delayed — delayed, delayed — and finally cancelled.

“So we ran down the lobby and waited two hours in line to get a reservation for the next flight,” Gayle Simon wrote in an email. “The next flight was delayed, four different times, and each flight ended up being cancelled. Again, we were waiting each time for two hours!”

Eventually, she and her husband booked a rental car and drove home—but not before waiting in a six-hour line to pick up their car.

“The whole experience was beyond what any human being should have experienced in their life by an airline,” she wrote. The emotional distress and pain it caused is priceless. No monetary value can make up for what we went through. It was awful. I hope there will be a class action lawsuit against them.”

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Jennifer Morrison of Shaker Heights relayed the disturbing story of her daughter and three grandchildren, who spent hours at Nashville International Airport on Christmas Eve, trying to fly to Cleveland.

Shelley Morrison received conflicting information about the status of her flight and queued to find out what was going on. That’s when things went from bad to worse.

“I queued a very long time to get an explanation,” Jennifer Morrison said. “After waiting in line for about an hour, the agent told travelers she was closing the counter and security was called to clear the area.”

She continued, “In short, the officer threatened to arrest my daughter, claiming that the canceled flight meant her ticket was not valid and she would be arrested for trespassing if she did not leave the area. He did not listen as she tried to explain that she was trying to get an explanation.”

Morrison’s granddaughter posted a video on Twitter Tik Tok From the interaction picked up by several news outlets, incl WKRN-TV in Nashville Tennessee and the The New York Times.

Shelly Morrison is still waiting for an apology for the way she was treated. Meanwhile, she and her daughters did not make it to Cleveland for Christmas.

Not every story had a sad ending.

Ken Cislak of Shaker Heights said his 17-year-old grandson called from Denver early on Christmas Eve to tell him Southwest had canceled his flight. “He asked me if I could find a way to get him home,” Cislak said.

“During my working career I’ve done a lot of miles with United and been a frequent flyer,” he said. I logged into my FF account with United and found a seat on a nonstop flight between Denver and Cleveland. The last seat available was first class. on SWA”.

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Cislak added, “He arrived on time. His baggage didn’t. United forgot to load his checked bag. United delivered his bag mid-morning on Christmas Day.”

Gil Baker of North Royalton also wrote a happy travel story.

She and her husband, Bob, were scheduled to fly to New York City on December 23 to spend the holiday with their daughter’s family in Connecticut.

“We saw the big storm coming, my husband phoned Delta and they changed our flight to Dec 22nd with no change fee,” she wrote.

Her son and daughter-in-law also made from Florida. “No real problems or delays for either of us and no baggage loss,” she wrote.

Jewel’s salon of Shaker Heights was not so lucky. On December 24, he was scheduled to travel from Cleveland to Palm Springs, California, via Denver, to meet his daughter and grandchildren for Christmas. United’s flight was delayed, in part, because the plane’s tires froze on the tarmac after severe winter storm Elliott Cleveland passed the day before.

Once Salon realized it was going to lose its connection—and it would be days before it could get to California or return to Cleveland—the crew let the passengers out, if they so desired.

Get off the plane. His bags, however, ended up in Palm Springs.

Haley DeLong and her family of six traveled from Euclid to Columbus—twice—trying to find available seats on a plane to Houston for a holiday family reunion. Its first flight, on December 26 from Cleveland at Southwest, was cancelled. Her son found six seats on a flight that left that night from Columbus — but when they got to the airport, the TSA security checkpoint was closed for the day. (Apparently, United didn’t tell TSA they had a flight delay.) They — and dozens of other frustrated passengers — weren’t able to board.

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“This is when our reality may not reach Houston,” DeLong said. “There were tears and screams and our group of six stood divided if we pressed or waved the white flag. We got back to the car and it was completely empty. We got back to Cleveland at 3 am.”

The next day, after trying and failing to find a flight from Cleveland, they returned to Columbus. They make it through security this time, but their plane is stuck in the ice. They finally left for Houston at 11:22 p.m

She said the effort was worth it. “The past few years have reinforced the importance of spending more time with the people we love,” she wrote. “Arrived for a family reunion and spent three nights with my favorite people. I forgot about all the flight delays/issues once we arrived.”

Read more:

Reflections on the Southwest Airlines Disaster, and What Comes Next