From honeymoons to funerals, this summer’s flight chaos is throwing a wrench in the return of major life moments paused during the pandemic

Passengers in Toronto Pearson International Airport on July 22, 2022.Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

  • This summer’s flight chaos has disrupted long-awaited trips pushed back during the pandemic.

  • Travelers flying to honeymoons, weddings, funerals, birthdays, and memorials shared their stories with Insider.

  • “I just feel like on a human level… they should at least give us a little more respect,” one traveler said.

Ellen and Dom sprinted through the Denver airport wearing matching bride and groom T-shirts, desperately trying to rebook their flights to Italy in time for their honeymoon cruise departing Venice on July 3, the next day.

Their first flight from Denver to Toronto was delayed, meaning they would miss the next two flights to Montreal and Venice. With no Air Canada employees in sight and a call hold time of over two hours, their dream vacation quickly transformed into a travel nightmare, They told Insider.

Over 16 hours later, they boarded the cruise in Venice thanks to an American Airlines crew member who gave them his extra stand-by ticket. But when friends and family ask the couple about their honeymoon, even the good memories feel tainted by the stress of the journey, they said.

“I was emotionally raw,” Ellen, who asked for her last name to be redacted for privacy, said. “It just stinks that this happened on such a momentous occasion.”

Air Canada did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. However, in an email reviewed by Insider sent to a passenger seeking help finding luggage that has been missing for 28 days, Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau said the company is “working in close cooperation with airports, government, and its third-party service providers” in an effort “to return our industry to pre-pandemic standards of operation.”

“Regrettably, things are not business as usual in our industry globally, and this is affecting our operations and our ability to serve you with our normal standards of care,” Rousseau wrote in the note. “… Around the world, there are recurring incidents of flight delays and airport congestion, resulting from a complex array of persistent factors impacting airlines and our partners in the aviation ecosystem.”

The newlyweds — a teacher and firefighter from Colorado — are just two of thousands who’ve had their plans upended as understaffed airlines struggle to handle this summer’s explosive travel demand.

Airline passengers traveling to family vacations, weddings, funerals, birthdays, and memorials told Insider how this summer’s flight chaos has tampered any hope of returning to a pre-pandemic normal when it comes to international travel.

Pandemic-delayed vacations get pushed even further

Angela and her daughter Sydney

Angela Hyre and her 14-year-old daughter Sydney.Courtesy of Angela Hyre

Angela Hyre first booked the mother-daughter vacation in 2019 as an elementary school graduation present.

Pushed back over the next three years due to the pandemic, Hyre and her now 14-year-old daughter Sydney were “ridiculously excited” for the 10-day tour of Europe that would finally take place this June — now a celebration of Sydney’s start to high school.

But on June 12, their Delta flights from Charlotte to Rome were delayed over the next two days, travel documents show.

In the airport hotel, Hyre said her daughter “cried herself to sleep” and asked to give up on the trip entirely and go home. She didn’t receive her luggage until 32 days later.

“I’m heartbroken because this was such a trip that we planned together,” she said, adding that she spent almost $6,000 on replacement clothes, items and the airport hotel room. “We want a do-over.”

“We sincerely apologize for this experience, which falls short of what we know our customers expect and deserve when they travel with Delta. Our teams are reaching out to this customer directly to help make things right,” a Delta spokesperson told Insider.

Meggin Hurlburt sleeping on the floor in the United Airlines club

Meggin Hurlburt sleeping on the floor in the United Airlines club after her family’s flights to Costa Rica were delayed.Courtesy of Meggin Hurlburt

Meggin Hurlburt, a business owner from San Diego, planned to fly to Costa Rica to spread the ashes of her quadriplegic brother Micah, who died this January after being infected with COVID-19.

“We planned [the trip] in honor of him because he wanted to move there … He loved Costa Rica so much,” Hurlburt told Insider. “So when we planned it, it was the one thing that we were looking forward to, to kind of get away from … the trauma and the sadness.”

When Southwest Airlines canceled their flights on June 23, the family ended up spending $5,000 on new flights, hotel rooms, and Ubers, she told Insider. Southwest refunded the taxes and sent flight vouchers worth just $300, Hurlburt said, adding that she’s emailed the airline four times explaining the situation.

“I just feel like on a human level and emotional level they should at least give us a little more respect for what we went through and what the cancellation ended up putting us through,” Hurlburt said.

She continued: “It seems like they’re so inundated with these issues that they’re just saying ‘No, we’re not going to do anything to help you or make up for your loss and you just have to deal with it. ‘”

A spokesperson for Southwest said in a statement shared with Insider that the airline offers its “sincerest regret regarding disrupted travel plans.”

“In these situations, we do our best to make things right, and we work directly with customers who have been impacted by disruptions,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, when a flight is canceled by Southwest, and the customer chooses not to travel , the customer can retain their travel funds from the ticket for future travel or request a refund of the ticket.”

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