'13 hours on a plane that didn't move': SoCal woman recounts nightmare trip from Canada amid storm

David Ono Image
Friday, December 30, 2022
SoCal woman recounts nightmare trip from Canada to OC amid storm
A group of longtime college friends took a trip to Canada, planning to return to Southern California long before Christmas. They had no idea that their trip home would develop into a travel nightmare.

Kelly Itatani and a group of longtime college friends took a dream winter-time trip to Whistler, Canada, earlier this month.

They planned to be back in Southern California long before Christmas to beat the holiday travel rush -- but they had no idea how long their travel home nightmare would last when they first boarded their flight from Vancouver and snow began to fall.

The plane departed from the gate -- but then it stopped.

"It went on for hours," Itatani said. "And then hours turned into night, and night turned into morning, and we were still on the plane and we couldn't believe it. We spent 13 hours on a plane that didn't move."

Posting on social media, Itatani recounted: "Our captain told us there were no gates and no staff to help us deplane, so we just sat there."

When they finally were allowed to deplane, still in Vancouver, they were told the next flight available would be in 48 hours. But with jobs calling, the crew of college friends decided to go freestyle and make their own way home.

"From the airport we took an Uber to the border, but the Uber couldn't take us across the border," Itatani said. The driver didn't have a passport. "We asked -- believe me -- so he dropped us off a mile from the border. We were walking with all of our checked bags n backpacks.

Southwest Airlines planned a return to normal operations with "minimal disruptions" Friday, one day after it canceled another 2,300-plus flights nationwide in the aftermath of weather and computer issues that left thousands stranded.

"We were dressed for a flight to L.A, so we weren't prepared for the snow at all," she said. "We were in line with the cars. It looked hilarious."

The group explained their plight to border patrol officers "and they laughed at us," Itatani said. The group called a cab to the nearest town. A border patrol officer said, "The town where you called it to is a mile-and-a-half that way."

Itatani said she asked, "'Do people walk across the border like this?' And he said, 'Not int he winter.'"

So the group trudged another mile in the snow to finally meet up with the cab, which dropped them off at a car rental lot.

"From the cab we found the only car with a one-way rental left in the area," Itatani said. "From Bellingham, Washington, we drove five hours to Portland. We just wanted to get out of the snow. We heard Seattle was having a lot of cancellations too, and we just could not get stuck again.

"From Portland we stayed the night and were on the first flight out," she said.

Finally, the group flew from Portland to San Jose to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.

"It was a nightmare," Itatani said of the ordeal getting from Vancouver to Portland.