Houston family stuck at North Carolina airport for week after Southwest Airlines nightmare

Josh Chapin Image
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Family stuck at RDU after air travel debacle
A family with three small children was supposed to return to Houston on Dec. 28. "Southwest is just ... I have no words for them because they're not willing to do anything."

MORRISVILLE, North Carolina -- Major problems with an FAA Air Traffic Control computer system on Monday triggered hours-long flight delays in and out of Florida. More than 1,600 flights were delayed and more than 160 were canceled.

It came as problems stemming from that Southwest Airlines meltdown stretched into a new week (and new year) including for families at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

At RDU, what was expected to be a busy travel day became even more complicated by chaos in Florida. For Southwest, still dealing with last week's mess and scores of bags, it meant even more headaches.

People were still coming to claim bags left at airports after last week's fiasco, and some people were still trying to get home.

"They just say it's not their fault, and that's pretty much it and we're stuck here," said Alex Argueta.

Argueta has had enough and just wants to go home to Houston.

"I have an 8-month-old, 2-year-old and 5-year-old," he said. "And it's tough trying to travel with them."

His mother-in-law, like so many others, was at Terminal 1 at RDU by the Southwest Airlines baggage office.

RELATED: 'I was shocked': Bride to miss wedding due to Southwest flight cancellations

It's where so many travelers have been coming in the last week to get bags that were stuck in transit with the airline's meltdown.

Argueta and his family came here on Dec. 22 and were supposed to leave on Dec. 28 but couldn't get rebooked until Monday.

They arrived at RDU and found out once again that their flight was canceled.

"It's ridiculous," Argueta said. "I mean, they're saying they have a flight tomorrow that they're not even guaranteeing we're going to be able to actually catch it and catch our next flight."

The Arguetas were on the phone with Southwest for three hours and then said they were hung up on. A previous call with the airline lasted an hour and 16 minutes.

The family has looked a renting a car.

"It's a risk that we're likely going to take," Argueta said. "I had to be at work, I've missed work, she's missed work."

They're also still missing two bags, and they would have to go buy car seats for the children to safely drive back.

"Southwest is just ... I have no words for them because they're not willing to do anything," Argueta said.

RELATED: Southwest CEO: 'Just no way to apologize enough' for disastrous week of flight cancelations

The Arguetas are out of pocket for a lot and their 5-year-old child is starting school later this week.

"We were stuck with no clothes, no shoes, just pretty much what we had on, that's what we had," Argueta said. "I have three kids and there are three adults, so we didn't have no luggage ... I don't know where it's at, so we came to the point where we didn't really care where it was at, just had some of our stuff back."

Southwest's CEO said on GMA last week that this is something they have never seen in the airline's 50-plus years, and that passengers should expect refunds for tickets and expenses.