Southwest Airlines chaos: Family snags one of last rental cars to drive home after canceled flight

Travelers who relied on Southwest Airlines to get home suffered another wave of cancelations Wednesday. Many people have resorted to other means of transportation as the wait for a normal flight schedule keeps getting pushed back.

More than 55 percent, or 123 Southwest flights, in Austin were canceled Wednesday. The lines are shorter at the airport, but it seems travelers have left their luggage behind as they find different ways to get home.

"You’re in Austin right? Yeah, you’ll see us in maybe the next decade, okay," Jordan Gamboa said, while driving from Reno to Austin.

It may not take him a decade, but his GPS said it will take him 25 hours to get home. He and his girlfriend and her mom were supposed to fly from Reno to Austin, but their flight was canceled, so they decided to get a rental car,

"He said that I got one of the last cars that they could give," Gamboa’s girlfriend’s mom Sharon Scott said.

They’re taking eight-hour shifts of driving and hoping to make it to work on time on Thursday.

"We were like, we’re going to leave at 3 a.m. because has to work at 9:30 a.m. Thursday so our goal was to get back to Austin," Gamboa’s girlfriend Mahala Wood said.

Thousands of people are in the same boat as them, having to find different ways to get home.

"We’re starting to get to the frustration phase, or at least I am," Wood said.


"Oh 100 percent. I’m getting a little bit more and more," Gamboa said.

"At the beginning I was trying to make the best of it, but now it’s just frustrating," Wood said.

Southwest Airlines grounded nearly 10,000 flights over the past 72 hours as most of the nation recovers from a deadly winter storm.

"So the cancelations just compiled one after another to a hundred, to 150, to a thousand with those cancelations and as a result, we end up with flight crews and airplanes that are out of place and not in the cities they need to be in to continue to run our operations, so that is ultimately exactly how we ended up where we are," Southwest Airlines spokesman Jay McVay said.

The Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant’s Union said the airline needs to overhaul its communications and logistical systems pointing out other carriers were able to recover much more quickly.

"The system we have could not handle the number of cancelations, changes and notifications that needed to go out," TWU Local 556 President Lyn Montgomery said.

FlightAware reported Southwest removed thousands more flights in the coming days as it tries to restore order.

In the meantime, Southwest has opened a self-service tool to help travelers impacted by the disruptions. The U.S. Department of Transportation said you can request a refund and other services you’re entitled to and check with your credit card company because travel experts said many have trip delay or cancelation insurance to help with reimbursements.

"Don't hesitate to take the first thing that comes up so long as you’re willing to go through the process to get reimbursement," 10xTravel COO Travis Cormier said.

FlightAware reported more than half of Southwest Airlines flights in Austin are canceled Thursday, so check the status of your flight before coming to the airport.