A family who was flying to Tokyo to visit Disney and celebrate their son’s 21st birthday was ‘devastated’ and out $7,000 after Southwest canceled their flight

Jade Rodriguez, her husband and their two sons.

Jade Rodriguez and her family missed their trip to Japan after Southwest canceled one of their flights.Jade Rodriguez

  • Jade Rodriguez said her family had planned a “surreal” trip to Japan for her son’s 21st birthday.

  • But after Southwest canceled their flight from Tucson to LAX, they missed their flight to Tokyo.

  • Rodriguez told Insider, “If we had been notified sooner, we would have made the drive and made it.”

An Arizona family was “shocked” and “devastated” when a last-minute Southwest flight cancellation forced them to miss their trip to Japan and left them thousands of dollars.

Jade Rodriguez told Insider that she, her husband and their two children had planned a “surreal” trip to Tokyo, Japan, after her 20-year-old boy said he was there to celebrate his 21st birthday on Jan. 2. wanted to be taken They were going to visit Tokyo Disney and the Pokémon Cafe in Tokyo, take a train to Kyoto and go sightseeing at historic temples.

They planned to fly out of Tucson on Christmas Day for Los Angeles, where they would catch their flight over the Pacific. They say they were informed that their flight was slightly delayed, but had no indication that it was in serious danger of not taking off at all, and were unaware of disruptions already underway at Southwest .

But when they arrived at the airport in Tucson, they were met with confusion and misinformation from the airline.

Southwest employees said they were still working on assembling a crew, but asked passengers to check their luggage anyway. Rodriguez said, “It was very miscommunication. One attendant was saying, ‘We’re not getting to LAX,’ the other was asking to check our bags.” “It was a complete illusion.”

After all the conflicting information, his American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo was canceled in full about seven hours before it was due to take off. The drive from Tucson to Los Angeles was about seven and a half hours.

Rodriguez said, “If we had been notified sooner, we would have made the drive and made it.”

His flight could only be rebooked for Wednesday at the earliest, but it would be a 20-hour journey and would involve covering the difference in flight costs. This would leave him with only five days in Japan, ending his 8-day travel plan.

Rodriguez said, “We were just devastated. We are in shock.”

Now they are trying to get as much of a refund for the trip as possible, including on Southwest, American Airlines, hotels in Japan, and Tokyo Disney, where they had already bought tickets, among other expenses.

Rodriguez said she received conflicting information from Southwest, with one email saying she would get a full refund and another saying she would only get flight credits to be used in the future.

He bought travel insurance for his American Airlines flight to Japan and is hoping that means the full cost will be covered. But Tokyo Disney, which is not owned by The Walt Disney Company, does not usually issue refunds.

In total, Rodriguez said they’re out about $7,000.

They are still hoping to reschedule a trip for next year, depending on how much they can be refunded or rescheduled, but are unsure when they can make travel work for the whole family. will do.

Rodriguez is a teacher, so she had this time off from work, but she’ll have to try to get off work in the spring because her break doesn’t align with her son’s. Her husband, who is a retired member of the military but still teaches classes on the base, has taken off work for this trip and will have to try to do so again if the vacation is rescheduled.

Rodriguez said her older son is a college student who is “dedicated” to ROTC, a program that trains university students for military service, so he has limited time in which to travel. She’s also a big fan of Disney and Pokémon, which would have been a big highlight of the trip for her, so when they offered to move her at the last minute, she simply said “no”.

Rodriguez said that in the future she might consider getting travel insurance for the entire trip instead of just large international flights, even though she already has travel medical insurance through the military. She also said she knows some other people may have had even more challenging experiences with chaotic flight cancellations.

“I’m grateful that we lived close and were with family,” she said. “But it was really devastating.”

The family was among thousands of Americans who experienced flight cancellations this week following an operational meltdown at Southwest. Airlines canceled more than 2,900 flights on Monday, which was almost half of all flights canceled worldwide that day. The disruption rippled through the travel industry, causing rental car shortages and increased flight prices.

When reached for comment, a Southwest spokesperson said: “We apologize to all of our customers who were affected by this disruption. Customers whose flights were canceled are eligible for a refund and will be reimbursed for incidental expenses.” are encouraged to submit requests for reimbursement as appropriate. They will be processed on a case-by-case basis.”

The spokesperson also said that affected passengers can seek assistance through the travel-disruption portal on their site.

Tokyo Disney, owned by The Oriental Land Co., could not immediately be reached for comment. The Walt Disney Company, which licenses the intellectual property to Tokyo Disney, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Have a news tip or travelogue to share? contact this reporter kvlamis@insider.com,

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