'We're coming out of pocket': Frustrated families seek alternatives after canceled Southwest flights

Daniela Hurtado Image
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Canceled Southwest flights: Frustrated families seek alternate means of travel, going over budget, hoping for reimbursement
Some have missed out on seeing their loved ones during the holidays, and others are spending money they hadn't budgeted for hotels or rental cars.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This holiday season has been a nightmare for families unable to get to their destinations because of canceled Southwest flights.

Some families have missed out on seeing their loved ones, and others are spending money they hadn't budgeted for hotels or rental cars.

They are frustrated that this is time and money they won't get back, at no fault of their own.

Heather Wyatt, her husband, and her mother checked out Tuesday after two nights in a Houston hotel.

They had planned to surprise her daughter and grandchildren on Christmas in Long Beach, but after Southwest flight delays and cancellations, they never made it.

"Once we knew that we weren't going to come at all, I kind of had to say, 'Okay, here's your surprise. She's on Facetime now. We were bringing her to you, but we couldn't,'" Wyatt said.

They thought of everything they could to be together, even if it meant meeting in Houston.

"My daughter wanted to come, but we were like, 'We're not getting anybody else on a flight right now because it's a mess,'" she said.

Southwest sent Wyatt an email to request a refund.

"They have said that they are going to consider all requests for reimbursement, but I don't know if that's actually going to happen," Wyatt said. "There's a lot of people. It's going to be a lot of money."

Aaron Robertson and his family also rented a car. He's hoping to get his money back too.

"We've got to keep all our receipts, and hopefully we'll get reimbursed, but all of this is up in the air. We don't know," Robertson said. "Including the car, so we're coming out of pocket for everything right now."

They just got back from a trip to Cabo and have managed to stay calm through the madness.

"We're Christian people," he explained. "At the end of the day, we have faith. And as long as we are together, that's all that matters. So we make the best of it."

Making the best of it is all families feel like they can do right now with canceled flights.

"I can imagine people trying to get to their destinations, especially during the holidays. This is the worst time for it to happen," Robertson said.

Some have missed out on seeing their loved ones during the holidays, and others are spending money they hadn't budgeted for hotels or rental cars.

Meanwhile, families at airports like Hobby in Houston are scrambling to find their stranded luggage.

"They canceled it and told him that his bags were sent," Cheryl Keller said. "And he was like, 'Why wasn't I on that plane that the bags were on anyway?'" Her son is stuck in Denver, and she came down to baggage claim at Hobby Airport in hopes of finding his belongings.

"It was right up front and silver, and it has our name. I was like cool. So, then I was like, 'OK, the other one has to be here,'" Keller said while there was no sign of his second suitcase.

"Two out of three (bags found), the third one's in Baltimore. We came out on (Dec. 26). (It was the) only flight to get out that day," John Dobelman said. "Just looking forward to seeing if I can find my anniversary present in there. Our anniversary is this Friday."

While so many look for their belongings, others are looking for any way home.

Lee Anne Dixon and her family were stranded in New York at La Guardia because of the cancelations. With inability to rebook a new flight and lack of rental car availability, they thought they would be stuck there for several days.

Dixon says Southwest Airlines provided a bus at no cost to them and two dozen other stranded passengers headed to Houston.

She says they're still several hours away and expect to arrive overnight at Hobby Airport.

RELATED: 'It's been catastrophic': Southwest Airlines says winter storm exacerbated staffing issues

Call it a flight fiasco. On Monday, 220 Southwest flights were canceled out of Hobby Airport. But has the situation gotten better Tuesday? ABC13 has been monitoring the airports.