Trigg County family one of many stranded by American Airlines inspection debacle
by Hawkins Teague
Apr 16, 2008 | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the Wortham family, spring break came with a perfect storm, so to speak, of airline problems. Not only did their original airline, ATA, file bankruptcy right before they were scheduled to fly out of Hawaii, but the scandal regarding American Airlines inspections by the FAA kept them stranded for about a week before they could get back to Trigg County.

What should have been nothing more than a fun family vacation to Hawaii turned into a disaster by the end. Thanks to bad luck and bad timing, the Worthams and a few accompanying friends spent nearly a week trying to back home.

Dawn Wortham, the matriarch of the family, said that she, her husband, Gary, and their four children took the trip to the Kona District of Hawaii’s “big island” with three additional guests. The Wortham children included Ryan, 23, Tyler, 21, Trinity, 17, and Kristian, 15. Trinity invited Laykn Brooks, 17, while Kristian brought along Karlie Stewart and Brooke Kearney, both 15.

The madness all began when they booked an ATA flight through Southwest Airlines. That turned out to be the wrong choice, to say the least. On the morning of Thursday, April 3, the Worthams were watching the television news when they saw that ATA had filed bankruptcy. They knew then that they would have to make other arrangements to get back to Kentucky. But that was only the first step in a long series of problems. The fact that there were nine of them trying to find seats on one plane at the last minute did not help matters any, Dawn said.

Dawn said that Gary got on the phone with Southwest immediately and was on the line for about five hours. It would be the first of many calls he would make in the days ahead. Dawn said Southwest said they were willing to reimburse passengers or book them on another airline. She said they were some of the lucky few because they had booked their tickets through Southwest instead of ATA directly. Those who booked directly through ATA had no recourse, she said. Southwest had no flights available, but bought tickets for the Worthams from Hawaiian Airlines instead.

When Gary called to confirm their Hawaiian Airlines flight for Monday, April 7, he discovered that there had been a mistake (Dawn said she still isn’t sure what happened), and Southwest had to reserve the tickets again.

Once that was straightened out, the nine passengers took the Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu, where they were scheduled to get a connecting American Airlines flight to Dallas. When they got to Honolulu, though, they found out that their flight was delayed for two hours. They finally flew out of Honolulu on Tuesday, April 8, at 9 p.m. local time.

The crew finally arrived in Dallas at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 9. After they stepped off the plane, they learned that American Airlines had canceled hundreds of flights, which stranded tens of thousands of customers like the Worthams all over the country. According to the Associated Press, the flights were canceled after the FAA raised questions about whether a wiring bundle in the wheel wells of MD-80 jetswere properly stowed. The canceled flights cost the airline millions of dollars. So Gary got back on the phone with Southwest to try to get a flight out of Dallas, and actually ended up speaking to one of the same people he had spoken with earlier, Dawn said. She said the representative was sympathetic and very helpful, as was everyone at Southwest. The representative helped them book a flight to Houston that would take them to Nashville, their final destination.

For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.
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