Stranded Southwest passengers exploring alternate travel options

Dan Smith

The ripple effect of this week's canceled Southwest Airlines flights is creating demand for another type of hotel room and rental car.

There were clear signs of turbulence at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Wednesday. The car rental counter was more crowded than the ticket counter. Crowds of potential renters were scouting, scanning, texting and searching for other travel options.

"I came from Denver for my brother's wedding," said traveler Faciha Farooqi.

She and her cousin Javaria Farooq planned to fly to Orange County. But the flight to the southwest was canceled, like all other flights. So driving was the next best option.

Related item: Auckland-bound flight returns to Honolulu after clashes between Southwestern passengers

When you factor in food, lodging, rentals, and gas for a 300+ mile drive, it becomes an increasingly expensive option.

"Easily thousands of dollars. Obviously, we weren't expecting this insane expense, but here it is," Farooqi said.

Many hotels in downtown San Jose have reported an increase in customers and a decrease in vacancies since the traveler crisis began.

"It's a little bit of an uptick," said Gary Schlossberg, global strategist at Wells Fargo Investments. “This is having a significant impact on the immediate area around the airport … to some extent for restaurants that would normally have calmed down after the Christmas holidays.”

Previous article: Southwest Airlines passengers still stranded across the country

Some car rental companies are either out of stock or understocked, slowing down the process. Enough to crush someone's mood. But potential renter Mike Olmsted bucks the trend while trying to get to Tucson for his daughter's wedding.

"I never did the math. I don't care. It's your child's wedding. You have to go no matter what. So we say $200, 230. [dollars] Maybe," said Olmsted.

Some prospective renters are gearing up for bad news on top of the bad news they're already dealing with.

Related: Southwest Airlines CEO releases video statement following thousands of flight cancellations

Others say they've already begun to wonder what the return journey will be like if getting there is this much trouble.

"And what are the expectations of whether our flight will get us home?" said Javaria Farooq, a New York City resident.

"You know, I still have to go back to Denver, and she has to go back to New York," Farooqi added.

Experts said the cost of stranded southwestern flyers will continue to rise as the days go by.

The airline had 144 canceled flights at the San Jose airport on Wednesday, down slightly from 157 flights yesterday.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and his Instagram @jessegontv.