Southwest helps fix a wheelchair — and a holiday journey

wheelchair, disabled, disability, challenged, traveler, travel, trip, flight, airline, passenger

Waiting in line to board a flight can be a good thing.

It means Carlos Vargas and his 90-year-old mother, of Chicago, can board their Southwest flight to Newark, N.J. first.

I am happy to wait in line, because… I can. Those like his mother cannot.

Determined to travel, she refused to let her wheelchair travel challenges keep her from visiting her grandchildren during the winter holiday season.

And Southwest went way above and beyond to make sure she succeeded.

The Good News Guy continues to be humbled by uplifting stories of determined, ailing, and underappreciated challenged travelers.

Southwest is no stranger to the public — or our column — as a good-natured airline, including a particularly memorable and viral story about taking a passenger under its wing.

Other airlines have their moments, too. Hawaiian Airlines completely refunded all of a family’s nonrefundable tickets when one of them died. So did JetBlue for a serious illness.

With its sagging reputation, even American sits right with a passenger when it graciously offers a better empty seat. And United really went out of its way for this severely ill traveler.

Our society’s mobility and accessibility are higher than ever — exceeded only by our growing impatience. While hordes of me-first flyers compete for smaller seats, we may overlook the accomplishments of the disabled and assisted preboarders in wheelchairs we only casually notice while waiting in line.

Do you ever wonder about their backstories? What is compelling them to go somewhere despite their difficulties? Who are they visiting, and why? What happens to them when their flights are canceled or delayed for hours, and they are alone? Maybe our day isn’t so inconvenient after all. In the end, we still get where we want to go safely in a pressurized metal tube at 600 mph. It is not only amazing, but it should serve as a reminder that we should be grateful for our privileges, inconveniences and all.

“My mother traveled with her own special airline-compatible wheelchair with four small wheels,” began Vargas. “The plastic base of the left arm was damaged, and we’re not sure how it happened. While we were waiting for our luggage in front of the Newark Southwest baggage office, Elvi Silva, Customer Service Supervisor, asked if I needed help. I told him ‘no’ but commented about the broken arm.”

You won’t believe what happened next.

“He called me inside to tell me he could help and called a vendor they work with to arrange for them to pick up the chair and fix it,” Vargas went on. “As kind as that was, and when he realized that it would have taken time we didn’t have, the manager gave me a brand new wheelchair he happened to have in exchange for the old one, right on the spot!”

He added, “No paper, no money, no questions.”

No problem.

There’s more.

After their return trip home, they were the last to deplane, close to midnight, after numerous East Coast snowstorm delays. Not to be outdone, Michael Sliwa, a Midway Airport Southwest rep, brought the wheelchair to the airplane door, walked ahead with them to the baggage carousel, and waited with them to retrieve their luggage.

The attendant was clearly tired. Maybe he had family waiting for him at home? Perhaps he was hungry? He didn’t care.

He waited.

And in case anyone missed it, Vargas imparted another critical lesson lost to many. Travel (and life) can be unpredictable, and sometimes bad things happen by chance. They do not always need to be someone’s fault, as seems to be the case in our “who-can-I-blame-first” world.

Sometimes moments like this are also what best reveals the inherent good nature of those who are eager to simply be nice and not just do their job.

“From the time I noticed the broken wheelchair arm, I did not say or request anything since this occurrence could happen to anyone at any time,” Vargas concluded. “Every time I fly with Southwest, they are the best.”

Vargas also thanked for what we do for consumers. It is we who thank him for letting us and the airlines know when things go right — instead of only when they go wrong.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
This free newsletter will save you from scams.