Travelers impacted by airline cancellations ditch flights, rent cars to drive home

Dan Smith

Salt Lake City — During the holiday week, travelers choose to road trip to their final destination, resulting in more cars on the road and fewer flights taking off. The parking lot of a rental car at Salt Lake International was packed with people packing up and getting ready to travel across the country on Tuesday. "It's by far the cheapest option," said traveler Shantel May, who had to drive from Utah to San Antonio, Texas after her Southwest Airlines flight was canceled at the last minute. It's not that much, but I'll do something about it," he said. Southwest Airlines has warned customers that flights will continue to be canceled as it works to return operations to normal. "We looked at all the other airlines, but it's expensive to try to get out of here," May said. Travelers say the prices are high and the selection is limited. "It's my responsibility to pay the $200 a day hotel bill. I just rented a car. Can you pick me up for a one-way rental?" To Missoula, Montana. "I'm now paying her $700 for a one-way trip that drives 500 miles for eight hours. I was one of the lucky ones, her." He was told the earliest flight would be on the weekend, and all other available flights were either full or canceled. "I'll be stuck here for the next five days. They'll just take care of me financially for my first night here," Bale said.

The Summit Academy High School boys' basketball team was scheduled to depart Salt Lake Airport early Monday morning, connect to Phoenix, and fly to Los Angeles for the tournament that evening. "We had a 5am flight. The team was scheduled to meet at the airport at 3am," explained head coach Curtis Condi. "I chose the 5am flight because it was the first flight and the plane was there." When they got there, they found out that their flight had been cancelled. Condy said Southwest Airlines employees told him they couldn't fly until Dec. 29. "I was struck by their arrogance. I was like, 'No, I can't,'" he said. The team decided to rent two vans and drive to California. "This was a big deal because we recruited two young men from the school on this road," Condi said. Luckily, the team made it in time and won their first game of the week. "Our buddy was very resilient. After a nine-and-a-half-hour drive, we were lucky enough to win 80-39," Condi said. He said the drive was expensive, but the airline refunded their plane ticket. "These two vans cost more than airfare," Condi said. We apologize for the inconvenience, but he said it was an unforgettable memory for the players. "This will be a memory for them for the rest of their lives, that we turned a negative into a positive," he said.