by Nancy Bestor
Last month, when returning from a week long vacation in the Caribbean, my family’s final flight home from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon was canceled. This was after we had already been traveling for nearly 24 hours. The weather in San Francisco was rainy, and there was a light fog outside of the airport, but I’ve seen much worse weather, so it came as quite a surprise to me when United first delayed and then canceled our 10am flight.
Once we realized what had happened, Bob and I quickly went to the United customer service counter to see what could be done for us. The United agent informed us that due to the weather, our plane (one of the small jet-propelled types that flies in and out of Medford) could not land in San Francisco, which was the reason our flight was cancelled. There were two more flights for Medford scheduled that day, so she put us on the stand-by list. We were numbers 4-7 on the list however, and knowing that the small planes only seat 25ish, we figured our chances of getting on the flight were slim. The agent said those flights also had a high likelihood of being canceled, and she could not confirm seats out for us to Medford until Monday, two days later, on another airline. Finally, she told us since the delay was weather related, United would not offer us any hotel or meal compensation.
We really needed to get home on Saturday, as our oldest daughter had a ride scheduled from Medford back to college in Corvallis (go Beavers!) on Sunday morning. We could take a chance on getting four stand-by seats later in the day, on a plane that may or may not have been able to arrive in San Francisco, or we could cut our losses and rent a one-way car. We cut our losses.
We booked the car from our iPad while we were walking to the car rental agency in the airport. I had learned this lesson after friends of ours were stuck in a similar situation in Seattle, and the people in line in front of them booked the last one-way rental car available at the airport. Ours wasn’t cheap. The one-way rental cost $225. And we had to drive five plus hours, AND return the rental car to the airport. But our options were pretty limited at that point. By the time we drove our rental car out of the airport parking lot, several other United passengers who had been milling about our gate were in line to pick up cars too.
I can’t fault United Airlines in this situation (I know, shocking, right?). United really was doing all it could to get us home, there just weren’t any planes to do it. I can’t even fault them for not offering us hotel or meal compensation. San Francisco is an iffy city for weather. If they offered compensation every time a plane was delayed or canceled due to weather, they would likely not be in business.
The bottom line is this was an unfortunate situation that was out of every human’s control. We spent an additional $225 on our trip, and five hours in the car, but we made it home on Saturday, only several hours later than we would have made it home had our 10:00 am flight left on time. Travel doesn’t always work out the way you plan it. But then again, neither does life.