Powell family drives 23 hours after Southwest Airlines cancellations

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Posted at 9:05 AM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-03 11:05:13-05

The holiday horror stories of travelers around the nation dwindled on Monday.

Southwest Airlines has returned to a more regular flying scheduleafter what it says was a winter storm related meltdown last week.

On Monday, the Dallas based carrier did have to cancel 160 flights and more than 400 were delayed, most of those in or out of Denver.

Thousands of flights were canceled every day last week affecting tens of thousands, including one family from Powell, Wyoming.

The Hollands returned home after spending Christmas in San Diego.

Their trip involved a couple of stops in Billings on each leg and also was delayed by Southwest flight cancellations.

Instead of risking another cancellation, the family decided to rent a car and make the 23-hour drive back home to Powell.

"It's Heart Mountain," six-year old Mikey Holland said about the drawing of the mountain he did during the trip home.

"Trying to manage 23 hours in a span of two days is pretty crazy, but they were troopers," said about Mikey and his sister.

David Holland says he and his wife, Donella, made the decision to drive rather than take a chance on the Southwest flight out of San Diego.

"We lucked out," David Holland said about finding a rental car. "There were two cars left from Budget. They were the ones that we went through that we got a pretty good deal on."

And they drove home on a slightly longer route because they needed to pick up their car in Bozeman, where they left on a Southwest Airlines flight on Christmas Eve.

That night, they flew from Bozeman to Las Vegas where they were told about every 15 minutes that the connecting flight to San Diego would be further delayed.

"The flight did not take off until 1:00 in the morning," Holland said. "So we waited an additional two hours on the flight to get to take off and then we arrived in San Diego at 2:15 in the morning."

They finally made it to San Diego early Christmas morning.

The Hollands, along with other family from Albuquerque, spent Christmas with their daughter, 3rd class petty officer Zaira Marez, part of the crew aboard the USS Tripoli.

"We got to have Christmas lunch with her and all the crew members on the ship," said Holland, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Holland says 11 family members had not been together for Christmas in seven or eight years.

The family from Albuquerque also changed plans because of Southwest Airlines cancellations.

"Super thankful that we all had that opportunity and I know it meant a lot to all of us," Holland said.

Holland says he understands what he learned from Southwest, about computer problems, weather and not enough employees.

He also says he expects that Southwest will cover his family's estimated $1,000 in tickets, car rental, food and hotels for the trip back home.

And as a teacher in Powell, he says his two youngest children picked up some good lessons along the road.

"Learning how to be patient and use their creative minds," he said.