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Flight Cancellation Stranded My Family for 4 Days; Best Vacation Ever

by Staff

Alesandra Dubin and her family got stuck in Hawaii for an extra four days when Alaska Airlines canceled flights.
Courtesy Alesandra Dubin

  • While on vacation in Hawaii, our return flight was canceled for days due to a malfunction.
  • Our kids missed the start of school, but we made the most of our extended trip.
  • It ended up being the best vacation we’ve had, and four days later, we caught a return flight.

Last month, I was just wrapping up a short but sweet family vacation in Hawaii with my husband and our 9-year-old twins. It had been mostly uneventful in the best way, and we spent our time perfectly balanced between relaxation and light adventure — swimming in the pool and the sea, horseback riding, doing archery, and eating well.

On the morning of what was to be the last day of our five-day trip, I woke up early and groggily peered into my phone. That’s when I saw the breaking news that a piece of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 plane had blown off in mid-flight, and the whole fleet was being investigated. A quick double-check of our itinerary confirmed what I suspected: that was the very airline and the very aircraft we were scheduled to fly home on.

When Alesandra Dubin and her family got stranded while on vacation, they made the most of their trip.
Courtesy Alesandra Dubin

We still hopefully packed and checked in for our flight, but eventually, the inevitable happened: The airline canceled our flight back home to Los Angeles, along with all the others. We searched aggressively for alternative flights that could get us home any time soon, but given the widespread nature of the disruption, we soon figured out we were truly stuck — indefinitely.

We made the most of our circumstances

While my husband and I had our laptops with us and could work remotely as the delays dragged on, we knew our kids would miss the first days of school back after the long holiday break, causing a source of stress (for us parents, if not so much for the kids).

But given there was no way to drive (nor swim) thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, no amount of fretting would get us home faster. Plus, I had a travel insurance policy covering all four members of my family, so I knew we wouldn’t have to take a major hit financially — a major load off.

We started to shift our mindset: We decided to embrace it and soak up our extra family time in paradise. And that’s exactly what we did.

Alesandra Dubin and her family went horseback riding in Hawaii.
Courtesy Alesandra Dubin

Amid wintry mainland conditions, our Hawaii trip became the ultimate snow day filled with incredible, indelible memories. Instead of the school cafeteria fare they’d be eating had we returned home, my kids enjoyed endless savories and confections from the hotel breakfast buffet. Instead of homework after dinner, we settled into family shuffleboard tournaments in the lounge. And instead of a short recess between fourth-grade class work each day, my kids splashed in the waves and searched for breaching whales and rainbows.

We didn’t want our kids to know what had caused the delay

Along the way, we were careful to tell them only what they needed to know about why we weren’t going home yet: They knew that many planes were undergoing maintenance inspections, but not that there had been a terrifying in-flight incident. (Even I’d avoided reading more of the news than I cared to know at that moment.)

On one occasion, another hotel guest started chatting to our family — obliviously — about the dramatic incident on the Alaska Airlines flight that forced the grounding. He launched into the story about the child whose shirt was ripped off their body and out the gaping hole in the plane — but before he could get into the details, my husband and I both gestured frantically at him that we’d rather not get into this in front of the kids. He shut up. Crisis averted.

Alesandra Dubin and her family kept themselves busy with activities like archery.
Courtesy Alesandra Dubin

Eventually, available flights started to populate travel search engines again, and I booked the family on a flight home just over four days after our originally scheduled flight. I could say I was relieved to be returning to normality — to work, school, homework, and scheduling obligations — but I’d only mean it a little bit.

This potential travel disaster had turned into the best family vacation, and the best bonding experience, we’d had in a long time.

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