A couple from Oregon who were visiting Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit say they were abandoned by United Airlines, forcing them to find their own way home. But their extended stay on the Caribbean island also resulted in an impromptu wedding.
The couple tell Medford’s Mail Tribune that they had initially thought of canceling their planned mid-September trip to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma ripped through the region earlier in the month, but decided to go ahead after their Wyndham resort told them they could not get a refund if they canceled.
After a few days of good weather, Hurricane Maria came barreling toward Puerto Rico. The couple considered leaving, but says they could not make arrangements in time to get out before the storm hit.
Instead of leaving the island they hunkered down at the resort, where their doors were “clanking loudly and the floor even felt as though it was moving.”
While the couple was able to ride out the storm and Wyndham offered free accommodations and meals, they were ready to head home on their confirmed Sept. 23 flight.
But when they arrived at the airport, they found the United counter empty and their flight canceled.
“Other airlines were doing a first-come, first-served basis, where people would stand in line and know they would get on the next airplane out,” they tell the Mail Tribune. “United was just absent. They just didn’t show up.”
Even though several other carriers were operating flights to and from Puerto Rico, the couple claims that a United rep told them it was too dangerous to fly.
The best the airline could do, said the couple, was promise to get them on a flight Sept. 30 flight, seven days after their originally scheduled departure.
So they made the most of it, deciding to get married, and holding their wedding at the hotel, surrounded by other travelers stuck without a way home.
“We weren’t married when we left but had always thought about being married at some point in time,” they tell the Mail Tribune. “Since we were stuck at the resort, and made a bunch of friends, we wanted an interesting wedding story.”
Sept. 30 came and the newlyweds went to the airport again, only to find this flight had also been canceled.
Rather than wait for another… island, and took them to Fort Lauderdale, where they hoped United would honor their previously purchased flight. Alas, the couple says the airline made them pay a change fee just to get on a plane home.
The couple says they reached out to United about the issues, but haven’t received a response.
“We have tried talking to them online and through Facebook and Twitter,” Pitts said. “Customer service has been incredibly unhelpful. Had they just said, ‘Ya know, we are so sorry. Here’s where you can call to get customer service and get refunded.’”
Consumerist has reached out to United for comment on the situation. We’ll update this post if we hear back.