Stranded Friends Hit The Road to Bypass Southwest's Cancellation Chaos

The 12-hour road trip from Mansfield to Denver became the best option to get them back to work

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A 12-hour drive from Mansfield, Texas, to Denver, Colorado, was not in the plans for Heather Huante, her two roommates, and her boyfriend. Plan A was a 90-minute flight on Southwest Airlines.

"Rather than risking the flights getting canceled, we decided for the sake of needing to get back to work, we would jump in the car instead," Huante said.

The road trip became their best plan when Huante's mom made an offer they couldn't refuse.

"My mom said, 'You take my car. I'll go get the oil changed. Get the tires rotated. I'll fly out to Denver eventually and pick it back up and drive it back to Texas,'" Huante said. "The generosity of my mother is how this all happened."

Huante and her boyfriend had already endured a horrible Southwest flight last Friday night that didn't end until 4:45 the next morning when they finally got to her mom and dad's house in Mansfield.

"We really did feel lucky to have made it because we heard it was a lot worse. But I knew the domino effect was gradually getting worse and I did not want a replay of that," she said.

SWAPA, the union that represents Southwest Airlines' pilots, says the way Southwest routes are designed is part of the reason the airline has had such a difficult time rebounding from winter weather delays and cancellations.

Her two roommates didn't want to chance it either. They said quick goodbyes to families in Kaufman and Grapevine to get to Mansfield and catch a ride.

"I feel that everyone understands the problem at hand and is being realistic. So my parents were like, 'You need to hop in that car ASAP'," said Camille Doster, an occupational therapist who was spending the holidays with family in Kaufman. "I freaked out thinking I wasn't going to be able to get back. So, I just got my backpack and drove to Mansfield. So, I'll worry about the rest of my belongings later."

It's a similar story for Jami Hopkins. She was at her parents' house in Grapevine when Huante, her roommate, let her know another plan to get back to jobs near Denver was in the works.

"Me and my parents were looking at the flights and everything was canceled from Dallas to Denver. Every single flight was canceled that we saw," said Hopkins, who is a nurse. "Heather's option to jump in the car with her was the safest option. So, here we are with my friends vs people I don't know."

The four friends left Mansfield about mid-morning on Tuesday. They were loaded with snacks from Huante's mom and ready for the adventure.

"We knew we could control this. We could not control the sky. So, that made it an easy decision," Huante said.

They found an open road, blue skies and others from Texas with the same backup plan. A Sprinter van going their way had "Thanks Southwest Airlines. Colorado bound. #wheresmybag" written on the back windshield.

After a 12-hour drive, the four friends are back in Denver - and back on the job.

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