‘It’s just crazy’: Holiday travel nightmares pile up

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Holiday travel nightmare stories continue to pile up.

Although most airlines have recovered after mass cancellations during severe winter weather, Southwest Airlines continues to struggle.

The airline canceled nearly 3,000 flights on Monday. Things weren’t much better on Tuesday, with thousands more flights called off. Southwest has already canceled thousands more in the days to come.

The chaos has caused the U.S. Department of Transportation to step in and investigate the airline.

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the department tweeted on Monday night. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”

At Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids on Tuesday, News 8 spoke with one Southwest passenger, Mary Kaye Graham, who said she will never fly the airline again.

“That was the second time that I’ve had a bad experience with Southwest,” she said. “And I feel for them, but no.”

Graham was supposed to take a Southwest flight from Tucson, Arizona to Grand Rapids on Monday morning. Like thousands of Southwest travelers nationwide, her flight was canceled.

“We stood in line for three hours and just watched as people kept coming in and filling it up,” Graham said. “We watched as the board (showed) ‘cancel, cancel’ for Southwest, yet the other airlines were still flying.”

“Some people were angry,” she added. “Most people were just like, ‘Here we go again.’”

Southwest did give her a refund, and she drove up to Phoenix to take an Allegiant flight to Grand Rapids. But her luck did not get any better.

“The flight was at 5 p.m., then delayed to 7:58 p.m., then to 10 p.m., and then it was delayed until 9:30 a.m.,” she said.

More than a day later, she finally made it to Grand Rapids.

“A whole day … it was not fun,” Graham said.

Bekah Bull and her 15-month-old son Tucker were on that same delayed Allegiant flight.

“(Tucker) was a trooper,” Bull said. “He made people laugh and smile, and he walked all over and gave people high fives.”

They were waiting for days to fly out of Phoenix.

“I wonder what’s going to happen with all the airlines that are having this many problems because I’m already wondering if I ever want to fly Allegiant again,” Bull said. “It was such a terrible experience.”

Their Saturday flight to Grand Rapids was canceled, so they missed spending Christmas with their family. They waited in Phoenix throughout Monday for the Allegiant flight before it was delayed to Tuesday.

“We got to the airport expecting our flight to go through, and it kept getting delayed, delayed, delayed,” Bull said. “And when we would ask for information on what was going on, they told us it was a lightbulb that had burned out.”

A different woman, Ryan Ryan, might have the worst story of the bunch.

“I’m a teacher so I have a lot of patience, but this is requiring a whole other level of patience,” Ryan said.

Ryan recently took a flight from Wichita, Kansas to Grand Rapids, but the plane couldn’t land because of the snow.

“We tried twice to land, and the plane kept running out of fuel,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the plane detoured first to Detroit and then again to South Bend.

“Eventually they were trying to put us up a third time, and we were like, ‘No way Jose,’” Ryan said.

Instead, Ryan and her husband drove from South Bend to Grand Rapids.

Her flight back to Wichita on Christmas Eve got canceled, so she spent the holidays here. On Monday night, her first United flight got delayed, so she would have missed her connection to Wichita.

“It’s just crazy,” Ryan said. “Thankfully, I will say United has been pretty fast at answering the phones. But they haven’t done the best with problem solving and finding different solutions.”

Ryan said she was told another flight would not be available until Thursday, so she took matters into her own hands.

“We’ve decided to just go ahead and do our 13-hour drive home,” Ryan said.