I am going to depart not only from my usual approach to this blog but also shift from the editorial “we” to a personal “I” for this story. The point of the story is not my personal family issue but an illustrative point about Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.
As readers know, I live in Seattle. I have family in the Chicago area. My family had a developing situation that required that I go to Chicago to deal with it. The plan had been to attend the ISTAT meeting and US Airways media day in Phoenix earlier this week, fly back to Seattle for a day and then on to Chicago Friday. I had booked Southwest for the SEA-PHX-SEA trip and American Airlines for the SEA-ORD-SEA trip.
I truly don’t like flying Southwest because of the boarding process and the lack of an assigned seat. I’m a lifetime Gold Advantage member of American, with all the perks that implies.
I chose WN for the PHX trip because my business partner was joining me and she had to check a bag–and bags fly free on WN. I chose AA for Chicago because of the aforementioned Gold status and perks.
On Tuesday evening–the end of the ISTAT meeting but before the US Airways event–I received a call from my brother indicating the family situation had become critical; I need to fly to Chicago directly from PHX on Wednesday. WN changed the ticket (charging for the fare difference). I called AA to cancel my Friday reservation. The ticket was, as I knew, non-refundable but I also knew I could apply it for a future trip. For the fare difference and, as I also knew (regrettably), a $150 change fee. (Besides which AA also charges for the baggage check, which wasn’t applicable in this case but nonetheless contrasts ith WN’s policy.)
The situation in Chicago has now stablized for now but for the near term, I will buy WN to Chicago for family follow-up for the flexibility of being able to change tickets without a change fee. Tom Horton, take note: a lifetime Gold member is on your rival for now. I might be able to claim mileage to exotic places on AA and oneWorld compared with Lubbock and Little Rock on WN, but this doesn’t matter. Gary Kelly, also take note: good policies in place in these circumstance–even if I still despise your damn open seating.