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Southwest Airlines customers take matters into their own hands as thousands of bags remain stranded

Posted at 8:44 PM, Dec 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-29 12:03:20-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Thousands of pieces of luggage remained stranded at the Kansas City International Airport Wednesday, waiting to be reunited with their owners.

Dozens of customers came and went in the morning, hoping to finally get their hands on their missing bags.

Many of them, including Nicole DeMarco, spent the last few days without clean clothes, toiletries and Christmas gifts.

DeMarco ended up spending her holiday at the airport after her Southwest flight to Kansas City was canceled in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This whole process has been horrible,” DeMarco said. “I think that was just the most frustrating part — just not being able to spend this Christmas season with their families, and then, at the same time, just the chaos of not having answers and the process not being very smooth just made all of that worse.”

She ended up getting her flight cost refunded and booked another seat through American Airlines.

But she had to leave her luggage in Phoenix.

“I know they are trying to give out travel funds to get people to book them in the future, but I honestly don’t know if that’s gonna convince people to take them again,” DeMarco said.

Customers say Southwest Airlines has been nearly impossible to contact.

The lack of communication, or compensation, has made the experience even worse.

“Horrible. I mean definitely unappreciated as paying customers, and with a business that I’ve flown with personally numerous times,” said frequent Southwest flyer Cierra Tarpley.

Tarpley, Hannah Freeland and McKenzie Weien met in Atlanta, Georgia, while waiting for their flights to Kansas City. They say “people helping people” has been the silver lining in all this mess.

“They texted me saying, ‘Yeah, our bags are supposed to be there,’ and I made my dad drive me up here as fast as possible. And just getting my sights on my bags was the best feeling ever,” Weien said.

The women say customers have started calling phone numbers tagged to the bags and letting others know where their bags are.

KSHB 41 picked one piece of luggage at random at KCI and connected with Kara Hackney in Wichita, Kansas.

Hackney and her family were on their way home from a trip to Cabo San Lucas when their flight to KC was canceled.

Fortunately, they were able to get a rental car and drive home, but they had to leave their bags in Houston, Texas. She was unaware her bags were at KCI until KSHB 41 called her.

“The rental car and the gas — that’s probably $700 to $800," Hackney said. "But there were people that were stranded and having to pay for hotel rooms out of pocket, food out of pocket. So again, we were probably atypical for some of the people that had to spend a lot more money and a lot more of their time."