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Family stuck at SLC airport finally gets to fly home

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The family stranded at Salt Lake City International Airport for five days is headed home. Curtis Saxton and his family have been at the airport since Wednesday. Saxton, his wife, 13-year-old daughter and four-year-old son were here visiting family and were trying to fly home standby on Jet Blue with the use of buddy passes.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The family stranded at Salt Lake City International Airport for five days is headed home.

Curtis Saxton and his family have been at the airport since Wednesday. Saxton, his wife, 13-year-old daughter and four-year-old son were here visiting family and were trying to fly home standby on Jet Blue with the use of buddy passes.

"We flew buddy passes because it wasn't realistic for us to buy full price tickets,” explained Saxton.

Those buddy passes are just a fraction of the cost of a regular airline ticket, but they come with an added cost; you're never guaranteed a seat.

Saxton said, “Without flying with a buddy, Jet Blue's rules are like most airline's rules, you are at the bottom of the list. You're not getting out."

Jet Blue says when you fly on a buddy pass you won't be issued a seat unless there's room after all customers, crew members and those flying on company business have boarded. In Salt Lake City where there are several thousand employees, it's nearly impossible.

Jet Blue tells ABC 4 News the company feels for the Saxtons, but it’s their policy is to accommodate full paying customers and crew members first.

Morgan Johnston, a Jet Blue Spokesperson said, "It is really important for our crew members and for those who are traveling on buddy passes to understand the risks inherent with standby travel."

That means being prepared to stay and wait as long as it takes for seats to open up. In the Saxtons case it was a much longer wait then expected; four days sleeping on metal chairs and eating out of the vending machines.

Saxton says he's thankful to those who helped his family with food and money and even the jet blue employee who offered up the buddy passes, but he likely won't take that chance again flying through Salt Lake City.

"We know standby is a tricky situation, but apparently Jet Blue and Salt Lake with Jet Blue is out of the question,” said Saxton.

An ABC 4 viewer saw our story Sunday night and wanted to help. Sue doesn’t want to use her full name and didn’t want to go on camera with us, but said when she saw 4-year-old Dominic Saxton say he was “hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry,” she just about cried.

Sue said, “My husband asked me if there was anything we could do and it just went from there.”

Sue says she tried called Jet Blue and tried to get the Saxtons upgraded to regular tickets. “I was on the phone with Jet Blue reservation for 45 minutes and all said and done they could get them out, they could upgrade their passes, four stops, four layovers and it would have cost $6,000 dollars,” explained Sue.

Sue didn’t give up; she called several other airlines and finally found something more reasonable from United Airlines. $2,400 dollars later Sue and her husband purchased tickets for the Saxtons to fly back to D.C. Tuesday morning.

Sue said, "The only thing my husband and I ask is that if there is a family ever in need of your help they would pay it forward and help."

Saxton said, “We are very grateful for Sue and her husband for purchasing our tickets so our family can get home.” 

The Saxtons won’t be spending another night sleeping at the airport, United Airlines has made accommodations for them at a local hotel.

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