Originally published March 17
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A 22-hour road trip across half the country wasn't part of the travel itinerary for Nancy Dolter's family, but it was their way out of Florida after being stranded in in Tampa when their Sun Country flight got cancelled within hours of departure.
They received an email of cancellation at 5:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. flight on Monday, Dolter said, and she couldn't get a hold of customer service as they scrambled for a solution. Flights with other airlines didn't have enough seats to accommodate her family of four.
So they decided to drive from Florida to Faribault instead.
"After you spend a great deal of money on vacation, which we did, to have to spend an extra $2,000 to get home -- and just hours and hours of being on hold, being on the phone, not knowing, you know, it was just absolute stress and chaos," Dolter said.
The cost for the one-way rental car: $1,500, plus an additional $700 for a hotel, gas and meals.
WCCO learned of similar stories from frustrated passengers whose flights were also cancelled on short notice and couldn't get ahold of the airline after travel plans changed.
A local community college baseball team was nearly shut out of an Arizona tournament this week because of an abrupt cancellation of the Sun Country Airline flight they were scheduled to take.
In a statement to WCCO, Sun Country apologized and cited severe storms in Florida over the weekend that impacted staffing. The airline said bad weather affected flights across the system, and delays and cancellations cause a "ripple effect" for rescheduling.
"We deeply apologize to our guests. We recognize the desire for travel and vacation after two difficult years, and a cancellation is frustrating and disappointing," said Wendy Burt, a company spokesman, by email. "Our customer service agents are doing as much as they can to help each guest impacted by these cancellations."
Still, Dolter said she expected more from the Minnesota-based company, which she said hasn't returned her call after requesting a call-back from a Sun Country representative. She would like the airline to reimburse her for the rental car and other travel costs incurred due to the cancelled flight.
Sun Country said it was working to rebook, refund or give vouchers to customers whose flights were cancelled.
"Because it is spring break and a busy vacation season, our flights our very full, making re-booking challenging," a spokeswoman said. "We recognize there is a high volume of calls, so we encourage our guests to use the call-back feature so that they don't have to wait on hold. We are working to make it right."
When asked if additional travel expenses would be covered, Sun Country said it will only reimburse for the cost of the flights.
Dolter, a longtime Sun Country customer, now says she won't fly with them again.
"I just felt like Sun Country would take care of us. I've always flown Sun Country with no fear of anything, and I mean, I was just appalled," she said. "I think we might have still been there in Tampa if we had waited for them to call us back."
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