Husband's surprise wedding anniversary trip for wifey delayed after Southwest cancels flight

Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Delays, cancelations and chaos for Southwest Airlines customers
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Couple's 33rd wedding anniversary disrupted in Southwest Airlines delays, cancelations and chaos at RDU.

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- It was Thanksgiving night 35 years ago when Angela Evans was working as a waitress and was serving Rick Evans and some of his friends.

According to Angela's version of the story, she encouraged Rick and his party to continue ordering drinks. "The next week he showed up. And he's been showing up ever since," she said. "And buying more drinks!"

The pair married two years later and are celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary this year.

"I bought tickets for the Utah Jazz, Warriors game tomorrow night," said Rick. "Then we were going to be doing a little bit of sightseeing, cable cars, go down to the Fisherman's Wharf and have a good time and come back on New Year's Eve."

However, Southwest Airlines had different plans and canceled their flight.

The next available flight the airline was able to book for them is Jan. 3.

What are your rights when an airline cancels your flight?

"But I'm back to work," Rick said. "There's still hope. I'm off until the first of January."

The trip was scheduled to be a surprise for his wife. But a canceled flight prompted an alternative surprise.

"Only thing I'm disappointed by is not being able to see Steph Curry," Angela said. "Even though he wasn't supposed to be playing. He was going to be in the building!"

She has three Steph Curry jerseys in her wardrobe.

Both will agree that more than three decades of marriage comes with ups and downs and you can weather the storm, pun intended, the situation will be sunny on the other side.

"Still gonna be a good anniversary though," Rick said. "This is the first time this has happened to us as far as traveling. But, what do we do?"

"I told my husband we can drive to Wilmington. That's not that far. And chill out at the beach," said Angela. "I'm not unpacking this luggage for sure."

Other tales of travel troubles

Plenty of other stories like the Evanses emerged during the air travel debacle of 2022.

Mamie Garard was going from Atlanta to RDU with a stop in Nashville.

She got to Nashville and her flight got canceled; so she had to sleep there on Christmas Eve and was booked on a total of nine flights, many canceled because of crew issues.

The ninth flight made it to Charlotte and her dad drove from Durham to pick her up.

"At one point, I was just trying to get to any city that I had a bed to sleep in ... Back to Atlanta, Chicago," Garard said. "I showed up with no Christmas presents because they were all in my checked luggage, but it shows you what's actually important when I got to the Charlotte airport and my parents could pick me up."

Garard flies Southwest a lot and wasn't too upset.

"I do have a lot of faith and trust. I'm a loyal Southwest user and flier, and it's the perfect storm this Christmas, literally," she said. "I'm just grateful for how kind those workers were and helpful they were. "Since I'm under 25, I couldn't rent a car. We looked at alternate car rentals, at one point I looked at the Greyhound bus, we looked at that."

Tony Beasley, meanwhile, was trying to get home to Wake Forest by renting a car but there were none left, so they borrowed his cousin's car.

"They kept canceling the flight, get to the airport, be there for about eight hours and flight is canceled," Beasley said.

He doesn't know how he'll get the car back just yet; it ended up being a 13-hour drive.

"The lines in the airport were ridiculous," he said. "I've never seen lines in the airport that long before, and I'm 52."

Travel tips

"The best suggestions I can make for travelers now is to always carry snacks, an extra shirt, several days' worth of medicines, a toothbrush and spare undergarments in your carry-on bag, even if you only have a two-hour non-stop flight," said Rob Stern of Rob Plans Your Trip. "During the holidays we often see lots of infrequent, novice travelers, and some who are still taking their first post-COVID trips. Each of them requires more TLC from the airline reps in person and on the phone for troubleshooting, which further slows down the system and resolution efforts. Soon we will see victims of multiple flight rebookings and cancellations."

Stern said low-cost carriers are more challenged since they don't have the safety net or extra aircraft or crews to respond to problems as quickly.

"This is one of the trade-offs for the lower fares. Many passengers have really high expectations when they've only paid $139 or $179 for their tickets," Stern said. "The low-cost carriers also don't have interline agreements with other carriers, as the majors do, for them to protect passengers on other airline's flights, but even if they did, these agreements are less useful at holiday times, when everyone's flights are often full. Most airlines save their interlining option for full-fare customers, premium frequent fliers, unaccompanied minors, physically challenged travelers and other special situations. I haven't been interlined in 10 years. I try to travel off-peak, whenever I can.".

Stern said he advises clients to weigh the risk/benefit ratio of the low-cost carrier before booking a trip.

"You have to ask, 'How much is your time worth? Are you willing to cancel and walk away, or wait or stay for days in one or both directions?' Anyone going to a wedding, a graduation, on a cruise, etc. needs to allow an extra day or two to make sure they don't miss something important," Stern said. "I also recognize that for some large families, the low-cost carriers mean being able to take a trip or having to stay home. They have their role in the travel world, but some people think all airlines are equal, which is where many problems start."

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