Latrobe woman goes viral on TikTok after difficulty getting back to Pittsburgh International Airport

PITTSBURGH — Luray Hixson of Latrobe posted a video on TikTok about her awful journey home from Italy last week on Delta Air Lines. She said she had a connection through JFK airport and that’s where she said everything went wrong.

They changed her gate several times, moving her to separate terminals and then her flight got delayed by 12 hours.

“I’m sitting in an airport holding out hope that this flight it going to leave at 10 a.m. but at 7 o’clock this morning, guess what? It got canceled. Now I’m stuck in New York five and half hours away from home and I can’t even rent a car because they are all taken,” said Hixson in her TikTok video.

Her TikTok video has more than 3 million views now. She said other Pittsburghers were on her flight going through the same exact thing.

“It was like I was in a movie; it was like I was a hostage at this airport,” said Hixson. “It was so traumatic, not given answers and feeling stranded.”

Luckily, her mom was able to save the day.

“She said, ‘Honey I am on the highway, and I am coming to bring you home.’ And I just sobbed,” said Hixson.

Hixson is one of many people dealing with flight delays and cancellations this summer. I asked a local travel expert what’s causing the chaos.

“We got several factors: No. 1, increase demand, more than I have ever seen. We have fewer flights in a post-COVID environment and airlines took a financial beating during the worst of the pandemic and then staffing issues, which include flight crews, baggage handlers and huge lines for check in,” said Mollie Fitzgerald, a co-owner of Frontiers International Travel.

The expert said the airline issues could impact those traveling for July 4th. That’s why she expects more people will drive to their destination because of the flight problems and higher ticket costs.

“But compared to losing some of your precious holiday time to an airport delay, a lot of people are opting for that,” said Fitzgerald.

According to AAA, this Independence Day is setting a new travel record. It will be the second busiest since 2000, with 42 million people hitting the road despite high gas prices.

AAA offers the following advice:

  • Have a plan A, B and C. Flights, car rentals, accommodation, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand and availability may be limited, which will impact pricing. It’s recommended travelers look for discounts and rewards, usually available through a membership of organizations like AAA. This is also another time when travel advisors are a great resource, because they may know of a deal that may not be readily available to the public.
  • Air — AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 14% more than last year, coming in at $201/ticket.
  • Hotels — Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 23%, with the average lowest nightly rates coming in at $244/night for AAA-approved hotels.
  • Car Rentals — Since last year, the average daily rate for car rentals has continued to increase. With more people traveling, these prices remain on the rise due to continued supply-chain issues coupled with growing demand. While daily car rental rates have decreased 34% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $110/day, rates are $40 more per day on average than in 2019.
  • B-E-T on a breakdown-free trip. AAA expects to respond to over 446,000 calls for roadside assistance over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Make sure to get a full vehicle inspection ahead of any long trip but especially for components like a vehicle’s battery, engine and tires. Even a vehicle in top shape can run into an issue so it’s a good idea to pack a well-stocked emergency kit and have roadside assistance just in case.
  • Beat the rush. Travel on off-peak times or days. Based on AAA booking data, Friday, July 1 is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4), with Monday, July 4, being the lightest. For those hitting the road, the Thursday and Friday before the holiday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

Advice from local travel agent Mollie Fitzgerald:

  • Check your reservation frequently on the airline’s website or via mobile app. There are so many schedule changes taking place currently that what you booked a few weeks or month ago, may change several times before your actual travel dates.
  • If at all possible, try not to check a bag and take carry-on luggage only. The baggage handling is definitely suffering due to airline staffing issues and it is taking longer than ever to return missing items to travelers.
  • We encourage travelers to give themselves extra-long connections with the idea that you will always have backup contingency plans, should a flight get cancelled or delayed.
  • If your budget allows, we encourage you to purchase a flexible airfare that allows for changes/refunds so you’re in a much stronger position to make changes, if need be, with a higher fare type.
  • If you have a direct flight option, that is always preferable versus a connection, even if it’s a little more expensive. The fewer flights you have to take to your destination, the better.
  • Additionally, we are encouraging travelers to drive to their gateway city for international flights to avoid having to take a flight connection. For example, driving from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., for a direct flight.

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