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Travel nightmare continues for Southwest fliers; rebooked flights next year and no more rental cars

Posted at 6:28 PM, Dec 27, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Many fliers are stranded at airports as they are unable to rebook flights until the New Year.

Southwest Airlines canceled around 70% of its flights nationwide on Monday, creating a travel nightmare for thousands of travelers. The result has been a domino effect as planes are just not where they need to be. Now, rental cars are in high demand for those trying to find a different way to get home.

Avis and Wentz car rental locations in Colorado Springs told KOAA they had no cars available for rent at one point on Tuesday. Miranda Moya and her family were among the fortunate and able to reserve a rental car after their flight was canceled Monday night. They are now back home in Houston after a 16-hour drive, but Moya said finding the rental was not easy.

"As soon as we knew that we weren't going to be able to get a flight until Saturday we started looking around to get a car," she said. "There weren't even any cars. So we had to wait till someone brought one in."

Wentz Corporate sent a statement to KOAA saying the company received a record number of calls on Monday for bookings and one-way rentals. The high demand for rental cars is pushing some to look as far as Pueblo for a way home.

Clayton Ermel owns 719CAR.com, a local car rental service in Pueblo. He said he has received a significant increase in calls from travelers desperate to find a rental available. However, with his fleet of just 30 cars, he said he cannot accommodate travelers needing a one-way reservation.

"That's impossible to accommodate for an especially small-like Mom and Pop car rental service. For people that need to go to another state, they are in the rough sometimes having to search," Ermel said.

Others dealing with flight cancellations say they'll never book with Southwest again.

"It's nice that they're lower prices than most other flights but if it cancels last-minute like that, it ruins it," said California resident Nathan Fisher.

Fisher said he waited in line for three hours to rebook his flight home for the 31st. Luckily, he has family to stay with until then.

"It's nice that we don't have to like try to get a new hotel," said Fisher. "But yeah, a lot of plan changes and appointments back home."

His uncle, Rob Perez, said despite the situation, he wants to make the most out of his nephew in town.

"This is a bummer that he can't get home on time but I'm loving it because he gets to hangout another three or four days," said Perez.

People could try to get a flight with another airline but it may be costly, said travel advisor Terry Sim.

"Try to be hopeful and maybe get out of the airport and go see some of the sights we have here," said Sim.

Airlines aren't obligated to grant passengers with hotel rooms or rental cars because of weather-related cancellations.

Colorado Springs Airport and local rental car companies have no more cars.

Baggage has been a hassle too.

One traveler got his luggage back with all his Christmas gifts inside. Others aren't as lucky. Many are stuck here with just the clothes on their backs.

"And that's it and so now we have to try to make our stay here however long it will be as best as we can utilizing the little resources we've been given with compensations with southwest," said traveler Giovanni Matteucci.

Now two days without his luggage he says he needs to go shopping for clothes.

"We are hopeful but not confident with regard to what the outcome will be, we're still waiting," says Giovanni

In Colorado Springs, Southwest fliers are preparing to not be able to reschedule until the New Year.

Some trying to fly out Monday resorted to rental cars instead. Steve Kroll-Smith says he's hoping his 18-hour drive to New Orleans will be faster than flying.

"Tomorrow we'll drive to Pueblo, where there's actually a rental car that we can rent on a one-way trip," Smith said.

Southwest Airlines'online customer service has been down, dropping phone calls and experiencing crashing app support due to the high traffic volume all three have seen. So people have been forced to wait in line for hours.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan issued an apology from the company to travelers on Tuesday.

One mom says her 13-year-old son was stranded at the Denver International Airport trying to get home.

"Didn't give him a place to go, didn't help him rebook his flight, nothing," says Tracci Music. "They were just going to leave him there, 13 years old, stranded overnight."

Music had to pick him up at 1 a.m. but without his checked luggage.

"I couldn't imagine if I wasn't close by what would have happened as a mom, that sucks," says Music. "I trusted them to get my son where he needs to go."
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