orlando, florida – Passengers from all over the country are scrambling to make new travel plans in the wake of nationwide flight cancellations.
Travelers are now taking matters into their own hands by renting a car and driving home from 9 to 24 hours.
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Damion Martin and his family were scheduled to depart Orlando International Airport at 3 p.m. Wednesday, but their flight with Southwest Airlines was canceled on Tuesday. This not only costs them money, it also costs them time.
“I spent a total of about six hours on the phone with Southwest yesterday before I was able to reach someone,” says Martin. “The first time we were in the process of getting a refund and everything, we were hung up on.”
They now rented two cars and drove the nine hours back to New Orleans.
“I think it came to about $500 total for two midsize SUVs,” says Martin. “So, cost-wise, it’s pretty expensive.”
I had to go to the airport to pick up a rental car even though my flight was cancelled.
“It was the only way to get a rental,” said Sarah Martin. “All the places nearby near the resort had nothing, so this was the only place we could come.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing at the airport.
“Thrifty couldn’t keep up, so we had to go to Budget,” says Sara.
She said this wasn’t the end of the family vacation they were hoping for.
“There are little kids who don’t understand what’s going on,” Sarah said.
Damion Martin said he would have to pay $500 for two rentals, plus additional costs for food and gas.
“We were told to upload whatever gas, food, or other expenses we incurred during the flight cancellation, and then we would decide what could or could not be refunded,” Martin said.
The Martins aren’t the only ones who chose to drive rather than wait for their next flight.
Scott Depovelo declined the 8pm New Year’s Eve reunion, opting for the nearly 24-hour drive back to Buffalo, New York.
“Maybe around 12:00. Then stop and take a break. Don’t stay at the hotel or do anything, just drive straight, right?”
DePovero was scheduled to leave Orlando on Wednesday. His southwest flight was also cancelled. He’s been in Florida since his December 14th, helping his mother clean the house after it was damaged by Hurricane Ian and Nicole.
“I left Buffalo and missed the storm, so I’m going home and cleaning up,” DePovero said.
Depovelo estimates he will spend an additional $300 on top of rent and gas. But despite his travel woes, he tries to stay positive.
“I guess I should have handled it right,” DePovero said.
But not all passengers have a hard time. Some Southwest Airlines passengers said they had no trouble arriving in Orlando on Wednesday.
Nirav Thakker of Chicago said: “He had one slight delay due to arriving in Orlando from Midway, but I think we had air traffic control backup here.”
Tucker said he had some apprehensions heading into the trip due to delays in the Southwest, but thankfully he didn’t face any major problems.
“This morning we arrived and boarded the plane. We didn’t actually check our bags. We took all our carry-on bags. I came here for the first time, but it wasn’t ‘problem’, Tucker said.
As of 3:30 pm Wednesday, MCO has 130 cancellations and 218 delays. So far, that number is down from Tuesday’s 169 cancellations and 539 delays.
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