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Bay Area family loses $10K Jamaica trip in winter weather travel chaos

The Khurana family from Danville spent six hours at SFO's Terminal 2 Departures trying to salvage what was left of their big family vacation to Jamaica. | Kevin V. Nguyen/The Standard

A Bay Area family say they've lost their entire $10,000 vacation due to air travel chaos as they tried to leave SFO for a Jamaica trip.

Their itinerary was a complex web of independent reservations that all fell apart the moment their first flight from SFO to Miami via Southwest Airlines was canceled Tuesday morning.

From there, they were set to fly to Jamaica via American Airlines. But when the Khuranas called American to reschedule their international flight, they were told that they’d have to start over and book everything again.

In total, the Khuranas said they lost nearly $10,000 in airplane tickets, Airbnb reservations and prepaid long-term parking at SFO.

“[American Airlines] just told us that [the Southwest cancellation] wasn’t their problem,” Mr. Khurana said as his family gathered their luggage to drive back home. “If we wanted any reimbursement, it’d have to be with Southwest.”

Southwest Airlines announced Monday it will fly about one-third of scheduled flights over the next several days as the winter weather continues to wreak havoc on holiday travel across the U.S.

The volume of cancellations prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to say it is looking into whether Southwest could have done more to prevent them.

Unclaimed baggage at SFO on Dec. 27, 2022 | Kevin V. Nguyen/The Standard

The Khuranas, who declined to give first names, did not find much empathy from their Airbnb hosts either, who the family says have all refused to refund their reservations.

“I get why property owners have to be strict, but this is the definition of freak-of-nature,” Mr. Khurana said. “Moving forward, I don’t think we’re going to book any restrictive fares or pre-pay anything again. Once you pull one pin out, the whole thing falls apart.”

With two kids in college, the Khuranas were looking forward to the rare chance to gather their family. But without their departing flight from SFO, they returned home to Danville to look for other flights.

“At least we got some family time together this morning,” Mrs. Khurana said with a tired laugh.

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson urged passengers to use this link to check flight status and said: "We were fully staffed and prepared for the approaching holiday weekend when the severe weather swept across the continent, where Southwest is the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the U.S. These operational conditions forced daily changes to our flight schedule at a volume and magnitude that still has the tools our teams use to recover the airline operating at capacity."

SFO has been contacted for comment.

Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at knguyen@sfstandard.com