Regardless of the reasons behind the Southwest meltdown this past weekend, the undeniable truth is that the cancellations inconvenienced endless numbers of passengers.
For passengers lucky enough to have significant balances in their frequent flyer accounts, they could try to book a last-minute ticket on a different airline. That’s exactly what I needed to do when Southwest canceled my flight from DCA to AUS and I needed to book a ticket on Delta to SAT. At least I was close to our destination and Sharon was already there and able to pick me up at the airport.
When you’re booked on an airline that doesn’t rebook passengers on other airlines when there’s a delay (which is most airlines nowadays), there’s little you can do when the airline’s route network is set on fire due to delays. No matter if it’s a weather issues, air traffic control problems or labor disputes, the situation for passengers is the same. You’re stuck at the airport and you’re on your own to get to your destination unless you’re able to wait until the airline gets things straightened out.
For some, the alternative to waiting for a flight is to book a one-way rental car. Depending on the distance to your destination, a 12-24 hour drive might get you there faster than waiting for the airline to accommodate you.
However, there’s currently another issue when using that solution to your problem. Rental car companies are still short of cars and may not want to rent you one to drive hundreds or thousands of miles away, regardless of what you’re willing to pay.
One stranded passenger in Dallas used a hack we mentioned several months ago to get back home to Kansas City. He rented a U-Haul truck and drove the 9 hours to get home.
Man rents 10-foot truck, drives over 500 miles home after Southwest canceled thousands of flights https://t.co/9rdJZuyhRv
— WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore (@wbaltv11) October 12, 2021
No rental cars were available to drive outside of Dallas, and booking on another airline would have cost about $1,800, Melchert said. So the couple rented a U-Haul truck, threw their carry-on luggage in the back, and were homeward bound.
Melchert estimates spending $900 on the rental truck and fuel.
While he should be able to get a refund of the fare on Southwest (and not just a travel voucher since the flight was canceled), I doubt he’s able to claim this expense if he has a credit card that covers flight delays or cancellations.
When things like this happen, you have to decide how much money or miles it is worth for you to get to your destination. If you have the time, you can always wait for the airline to come up with a solution. If not, it’s often up to you to make alternate plans, no matter how costly or troublesome they might be.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary