A Utah family is stranded in Florida for several days because of the holiday flight cancellations happening across the country.
The Tesch family, who is from Enterprise, Washington County, has saved and planned for this Christmas trip to Orlando, Florida, for the past year. The original plan was to be back home on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, they’re stuck on the East Coast until Wednesday, at least.
“Complete and total chaos,” Keya Tesch said. “I had to wait in line for customer service for 2½ hours just to be told there was no way to get home until Wednesday, Dec. 28.”
Tesch, her fiancé and six children expected long lines at the amusement park they visited on Christmas vacation.
“The plan was to fly out on Dec. 14, go to Universal (Studios) for four days, then kind of explore Florida, maybe go to the zoo, and come home on Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas at the house,” Keya Tesch said.
They didn’t anticipate waiting for days for their plane ride home.
“On Dec. 20, we got the email saying there’s a very good possibility of delays due to storm Elliot,” Tesch said.
The Tesches went to the airport Saturday.
“We checked our luggage because we were informed that our flight was gonna be good,” Tesch said.
Two and a half hours later, they were told it was canceled due to understaffing, and Southwest Airlines’ next available flight wouldn’t be until Wednesday.
They spent Saturday night in the Orlando airport.
“You have to make do and make the best of what you can,” Tesch said.
She said they were told by airport staff they’d have to go find a hotel.
Days later, they don’t have any of their luggage, car seats or strollers because it’s likely at their final destination, without them, in Las Vegas.
“What worries me is it’s going to get lost because that’s a long time for luggage to be in an airport and not get lost,” Tesch said.
She and her family took a shuttle to a nearby hotel where they will stay until Wednesday. She’s run out of supplies for her children, ages 6 weeks through 14 years old.
“I was blessed to have one Southwest employee — they bought us diapers. They went to the only Walgreens that was open on Christmas Eve,” Tesch said.
She said dining out and hotel fees are adding up. She and her fiancé can’t get their paycheck through direct deposit; it’s back in Washington County.
“Our checks are in the mail, but nobody can get it because we have the mail keys,” Tesch said. “We weren’t expecting this. We’re getting short on funds.”
She said she’s had little help from Southwest Airlines, which has had a large portion of the flights canceled across the U.S.
“They said I could send in receipts and file a claim, but that’s about all the communication I’ve had with customer service,” Tesch said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will look into flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines that have left travelers stranded at airports across the country amid an intense winter storm that has killed dozens of people.
The Tesches saw a lot of other passengers decide to give up on rebooking.
“We live on the other side of the country; we can’t just rent a car and drive home,” she said.
Because of the size of their family, they would need a larger car. They also would need three car seats. If their flight doesn’t take off on Wednesday, they’re not sure they’ll have another choice.
“That’s scary as a mom,” Tesch said.
The Tesches were told their upcoming flight may not take off because it stops in Austin, and they’re expecting rough weather to impact the flight. They were also told the airline has had issues with understaffing.
They hope to get home soon, and hopefully find their luggage there.