Would you trust your rent-a-car company to give you a COVID-19 test? Man gets stranded in Central America

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Would you trust your rent-a-car company to give you a COVID-19 test?
When you travel overseas, you must have a negative COVID-19 test to fly home. A rental car company offered customers a COVID test before heading to the airport -- but a San Jose man got stranded instead.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As COVID-19 cases decline, Americans are beginning to travel again. But if you're going overseas, remember you cannot fly back home without a negative COVID-19 test within three days of your flight. A Bay Area man thought he had it all set up. Instead, he got stranded in a foreign country.

When you travel abroad, you might want to figure out where you're going to get your COVID-19 test. It may be tricky depending what country you're in. A San Jose man booked his test ahead of time, and he used an unusual medical provider: his rent-a-car company. Here's how that worked out.

Oscar Aguirre of San Jose planned every detail of his trip to see family in El Salvador. "It sounded easy enough, it sounded great enough... sometimes when it's too good to be true it might not be."

"I still have, like, aunts and uncles that live down there and a lot of cousins, so," he explained of his trip.

RELATED: Here's when Hawaii plans to drop COVID-19 test requirement for vaccinated travelers

Aguirre knew he'd have to take a COVID-19 test within three days of his flight back home. So he took up an offer to get tested by an unusual provider: Alamo Rent-A-Car.

"I booked my rental vehicle through Alamo and they offered me the service of doing a COVID test, which I thought would be convenient. Upon returning the vehicle, they'd give me the COVID test right there and I'd be on my way," Aguirre explained.

It certainly was convenient - and right there at the airport. What could go wrong?

"Everything that can go wrong was going wrong," he said.

Here's what happened. After a week with family, Aguirre's aunts, uncles and cousins drove him two-and-a-half hours to the airport.

Aguirre returned the rental car to Alamo - and asked for that COVID-19 test.

"And she's like, 'Oh my god I forgot to schedule it and the guy's not here,'" he recalled.

There was no technician, no rapid test. And Aguirre's flight was leaving in three hours-

"She told me that they would have to drive me back to San Salvador," Aguirre said.

So Aguirre and an Alamo driver jumped in a car and raced 60 miles to a test site in the capital.

RELATED: Why your rental car may be more expensive than your hotel and flight combined

"He said, 'Buckle up'... he's just swerving through the vehicles, like cutting people off and doing what he can. Obviously his job is to get me there. It's chaos. And over there they don't have as much regulations on the traffic... people are cutting you off, or running a red light or yeah," he said. "I felt like I was in a movie."

"Now I'm figuring out, OK, my life is at risk, because we're doing about 100 miles up to the capitol, you know, over a COVID test," he continued.

Aguirre got a negative result, then raced back to the airport, where his family was still waiting to say goodbye.

"And I was like, 'OK, I gotta go.' And they were like, 'Safe travels.' And we didn't even get a chance to cry like we usually cry, right," said Aguirre.

He ran to the gate, COVID-19 test in hand. And then...

"The gates have been closed and it's too late," Aguirre recounted.

He watched as the plane took off without him.

"I got no Wi-Fi, got no internet. I'm basically stranded," he said.

Aguirre had to wait two days for the next flight home. He says Alamo didn't help with a new booking or hotel.

His family ended up driving all the way back to get him.

7 On Your Side asked Alamo what went wrong. The company apologized and refunded Aguirre $130 for that COVID-19 test. It also paid his extra airfare and offered a future rental for free.

Aguirre missed two days of work but did get more time with family.

"That's when we got to cry and like kind of say our goodbyes," he said.

Under new federal rules, you must have a negative COVID-19 result in order to board a plane back to the United States -- even if you are fully vaccinated.

Review the federal rules for international air travel here.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!

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