Beyond the hours of anger and frustration owing to the Southwest Airlines chaos over Christmas weekend, some passengers found relief in (unexpected) company.
As the airlines scrambled with its flight schedules, some of those who were stranded decided they’d much rather trust a stranger on a road trip than trust the airline company.
Titus Converse, 25, hopped into a car with a pair of friends he initially did not know: Becky Stroble and Tori Sahli. The pair decided, after hours of waiting and no certain answers, to drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Sacramento, California.
Converse documented the trip on social media, like others on similar journeys.
“We agreed that the car ride was the only sure fire way we would all get home and took a picture to remember this wild Christmas Eve,” he wrote in a Twitter thread.
“The strangers trusted me because ‘I had the right amount of goof,’” he wrote in the same thread.
A little over 12 hours after posting his initial tweet announcing the trip, Converse shared that they were all home safe and sound.
Converse’s journey was hardly an anomaly in the crisis that is being touted as unprecedented in the aviation industry in the country.
Bridget E Schuster documented a similar, albeit longer, drive from Florida to Ohio, after she and three other passengers – all strangers to each other – decided to take matters into their own hands following cancellations that would render them unable to fly until Christmas Eve at the earliest.
“So far no serial killer vibes,” she joked on TikTok, amid other updates showing the group brushing their teeth on the road or getting a bruise while trying to get a fork at Chipotle.
The group appears to be in high spirits through the videos, laughing through the storm and the bruises, with one person even making a snow angel on a ground with very little snow.
“None of us had earbuds in,” Greg Henry, one of the fellow passengers, told We Are Green Bay. “It’s not like we’re doing our own thing, just kind of like we’re going to ride along. We built a community in there.”
States away, three other strangers got together at Baltimore airport to drive to Austin, Texas.
“Our only option was a flight going into Dallas on Friday, and that was on the waitlist,” they told KVUE ABC.
Amid this crisis, other airlines were quoting prices up to $2,000 while a car rental was one-tenth that price, so the group grabbed the last rental available.
At the airport in Sacramento, Deborah Rombaut met three other women the morning after Christmas when her second flight got cancelled.
Rombaut’s journey came 14 years after she acted in a Southwest Airlines Super Bowl commercial. She met 75-year-old Joan who was waiting next to her after her flight to San Diego got cancelled as well.
After the two paired up, they met their third group member, 65-year-old Debbie as they were hunting for their luggage in the “bag graveyard”, who offered to help drive.
They found their fourth member while at the car rental service.
“I don’t know if I asked them or if Debbie just kind of knew I needed help,” Jayme Ritchie, 44, told LA Times.
“It was just women helping women,” Rombaut said.
They even made a stop at Debbie’s sister’s place in Stockton where they ate leftover mac and cheese and were greeted with a warm welcome, Ritchie said.
While many found silver linings, the crisis is far from over. The airlines cancelled more than 2,500 flights on Wednesday alone, with more than 2,300 cancellations announced for Thursday, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. The New York Times estimated that Southwest Airlines had cancelled nearly 11,000 flights since Thursday.
The airline is now facing calls from transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg to refund passengers for cancelled flights and costs incurred due to hotels and meals. The Senate commerce committee is also looking into the matter.