did our flight stop twice even though the airline said we'd only have one
Last May, my wife and I flew from Las Vegas
to Columbus with our one-year-old son. I made the reservations
over the Southwest Internet site and chose a particular flight, in
part, because it said that it would have only one stopover (the
least number possible that day). However, as we were boarding at
the stopover for the last leg of our trip, the departure gate said
St. Louis/Columbus. When we asked about this, they said that
because we would not be getting off the plane in St. Louis, that
it did not count as a stop. Why is this practice allowed, and is
there anything we can do about it?
Your dilemma is an issue of
understanding the difference between a nonstop and a direct
flight—a big problem for fliers. A nonstop flight is just that, a
flight with no stops. A direct flight, however, is a flight with
same-plane service between the origin and destination points with
scheduled stops at one or more intermediate points. I've seen as many as
four stops on one direct flight. The second leg of your trip was a direct
The answer to your question, "Why is this practice allowed?," is
more an issue of the airline communicating the number of stops to the
consumer rather than one of outright deception by the airline. In
Southwest's case, their website doesn't clearly identify stops on flights,
especially when it comes to direct flights.
When I went on their Internet reservations page, I was confused by the way
flights and number of stops were displayed. Listed next to the flight
number and times, there is an airport code, a slash mark, and then a
number. According to Southwest's customer service department, the airport
code refers to the connecting flight city, and the number, to the amount
The agent I spoke with admitted that Southwest's timetable layout on their
website (and Pocket Guide) has been a source of customer complaints
because it doesn't clarify stopovers very well. I contacted Southwest
Airlines on your behalf, and here's what they had to say regarding your
Airlines has always been a high frequency, low-fare air carrier
with emphasis placed on shorthaul markets. A series of shorthaul
routes often makes up a longhaul route, by Customer demand, so we
began offering schedules for those longer routes involving a
number of stops and/or flight connections.
When confirming reservations through 1-800-I-FLY-SWA, our
Reservations Sales Agents are trained to quote the number of stops
without naming cities or times so the Customer does not confuse
these brief stops with an actual change of planes (we don't want
anyone getting off the plane if they don't have to). Of course,
the time needed for the stops is built into the overall departure
and arrival times given to the Customer.
We recognize that Customers who book their reservations through
southwest.com will need the same information to help them choose
an itinerary that is the most conducive to their travel needs. As
such, we have included a STOPS column on the SELECT FLIGHT page of
our web site to advise how many stops or connections, if any, are
scheduled for a particular flight. Flights with a "N/S"
have no stops or are "nonstop flights." Flights with a
"1" will make one stop between the departure and
destination cities. Flights with a "2" under the STOPS
column will make two stops—and so on. These flights are called
"direct flights" (requiring no change of planes but
making one or more intermediate stops). Finally, a flight that
shows the three-letter identifier for a particular city includes a
connecting flight. Please note that a "connecting
flight" may be scheduled to connect with a "direct
flight." In those cases, such as your return flight, you will
see the connecting city followed by a slash and a number
indicating the total number of stops included in the itinerary. We
are sorry that this was not clear to the Customer.
Again, please encourage Mr. B. to contact us directly. Our address
for this Customer is Customer Relations, Southwest Airlines Co.,
2702 Love Field Drive, Dallas, TX 75235. We would be happy to work
through this with him so that he can again enjoy the benefits of
booking online at southwest.com without any misunderstanding.
Project Manager - Public Relations
Southwest Airlines Co.
So, what can you do about it? This is one case where I would call
reservations to clarify the situation. Furthermore, flights can change
from the time when you book them. Always call reservations several days
prior to departure to confirm your reservations and flight times.
I hope I've been helpful. Happy travels!
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