The holidays are expected to be a time of relaxation and family fun. However, the expectations do not come off exactly as we imagine.
“All I could do was look at Vernon and say ‘This is a vacation we will never forget,'” recalls Ruth Kinney Tryon.
On December 28, she and her husband were on a shuttle bus from Denver International Airport to a hotel five miles away in the frigid midnight weather as cars skidded and strewn along the snowy road.
A week earlier, the Trion boarded their Southwest flight at Doha International Airport on the morning of December 21 and headed toward San Diego. The trip was part belated birthday present for Vernon and part holiday present from their children, with a return date of Christmas Eve.
However, when it came time to leave the San Diego Quiet, the Triones, like thousands of other Southwest commuters, realized they would not be home on time.
According to last week’s episode of the What Next TBD podcast, 10,000 Southwest flights were canceled from December 23-27, which is 50 percent of the airline’s flights. A combination of winter storms and outdated software has made the airline the center of attention in the media as passengers across the country are stranded at airports trying to figure out how to get to their next destination.
The Trions, Fort Morgan residents of 31 years, their daughter Ilana and husband Dave waited in endless lines of passengers to check their luggage at San Diego International Airport when reality set in.
“We knew things were broken, but we kind of thought, ‘Okay, maybe in a day or two things will be back to normal,'” Vernon said. “It went from bad to worse.”
Realizing that they will not be home for Christmas, the group begins to search for hotels and transportation.
Southwest’s system, SkySolver, used to schedule and reschedule flights, “crumbled and melted,” according to TBD guest Heather Tull Murphy.
“It’s a big, expensive mess,” Murphy added.
The room the Tryons found was a reasonable price when we first booked, but the price went up 50 percent like they said.
Still, the couple doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for them — largely because they got three extra days out in the San Diego sun.
“I haven’t gotten a lot of sympathy from people,” Vernon joked.
With the extra days, the Triones visited the beaches, toured the city, enjoyed delicacies, and visited the San Diego Museum of Art.
“There are much worse places to be stranded,” he said.
Last week, Southwest This CEO Bob Jordan announced that the company was offering 25,000 reward points to travelers who waited more than three hours for a flight from December 24 to January 2. The total amount of points equals $300.
The Tryons said they’ve earned these points, and plan to fly with the airline again. In addition to the points, Roth said the company called them saying the company would reimburse them for hotel rooms, food, and transportation during the ordeal.
The couple ended up flying back to Denver late on December 28, and their daughter returned that morning, while Dave had to wait a few more days to get home. They arrive in Denver with a blizzard to welcome them back - a marked change from San Diego.
Due to the weather and the late hour, the couple’s ordeal isn’t over yet - hence their need to catch a late-night cab to a Denver hotel. But this did not keep them disappointed.
“It’s another example of how you never know how something you thought was going to be a horror story turns out to be the exact opposite,” said Ruth. “You’re making lemonade.”