Father drives 1,100 miles from SoCal to Denver to pick up daughter stranded by Southwest

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Friday, December 30, 2022
SoCal dad drives to Denver to pick up daughter stranded by Southwest
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A Simi Valley father drove 1,100 miles through a winter storm to pick up his daughter who was stuck in Denver because her Southwest flight kept getting delayed and canceled.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Southwest Airlines plans to resume operations Friday, but that was unacceptable for Vinay Patel of Simi Valley.

Patel's daughter was stranded in Denver on Dec. 24. After two days of delays and cancellations, then being re-booked on a flight for New Year's Eve, Patel and his wife got in their car and drove 1,100 miles through a winter storm to Colorado.

"We can see the change in her voice when she heard that we were in the city of Denver and 15 minutes away from her," Patel said. "You can feel the difference in the excitement of her voice."

VIDEO: Southwest traveler gets reunited with luggage in San Jose after seeing it on live ABC7 newscast

Patel said he would do it again if he had to.

"If I have to, I have to. I can do it 100 times," he said.

The journey lasted over 15 hours in the car each way, 2,200 miles in total and one night in a Denver hotel to rest. Patel said he couldn't sit back while his daughter was alone in a city where she didn't know anyone and with no guarantee Southwest Airlines would get their act together.

"They need to be realistic to tell what's happening so they can plan," Patel said.

RELATED: Southwest CEO: 'Just no way to apologize enough' for disastrous week of flight cancelations

Patel said he would've left a day earlier and his daughter should've been home by now if Southwest had communicated better.

He said the worst part is how his daughter was stranded, and now they only have a limited number of time together before the holidays end.

"Their logistics system sucks. They were misrepresentative to the customers. Even when I left Columbus, they knew their system was screwed up and put us on those planes and got us all in the queue," said one Southwest customer named Sylvia.

Southwest canceled roughly 300 flights at Southern California airports Thursday, and well over 2,000 nationwide.

MORE: Bay Area tourist offered $24K in travel vouchers but says Delta rescinded offer

The airline has placed a lot of blame on the winter storm, but Southwest pilots and flight attendants say the cancellations have nothing to do with weather, but rather an outdated computer system.

Unions say they warned Southwest before the meltdown, and the airline is now under scrutiny from lawmakers and federal regulators.

Even though Southwest Airlines plans to return to normal operations Friday, it's unlikely several lost bags will make it into the hands of their owners by then.

"I just feel bad for people that didn't have family. I had family there who were stuck without a means, without a hotel," said Sandra Rome, who was also stranded in Denver for four days. "At least I had family. At least I had my medication with me."

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