An American Airlines passenger said her 11-year-old and 14-year-old daughters had to sleep on a window ledge at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after their late night flight was canceled last minute.
Beth Gill told Insider that she and her daughters slept with beach blankets over them, using backpacks as pillows.
Gill, who was travelling with her husband, said he was separated from them after he went down to baggage claim and wasn't allowed to return to his family in the terminal.
The family went on a two-week vacation to Las Vegas and were set to fly back from Phoenix to Charlotte, North Carolina, on June 16 with a connection to Raleigh, North Carolina.
But after multiple delays, the second flight was canceled at 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning, about two and a half hours after it was supposed to depart, Gill said.
She described Charlotte's airport as being in disarray when the family arrived, with passengers running to catch flights and "people everywhere." The airline attributed the delays to a lack of crew, Gill told Insider.
Gill said she was told the next available flight to Raleigh — about 160 miles by road from Charlotte — was on Sunday evening. American Airlines didn't offer the family lodging or a rental car because neither was available, Gill told Insider. She said she was unable to find a hotel herself and they resorted to sleeping in the airport.
Airlines are not legally required to provide passengers with accommodation when their flight is canceled.
"If the disruption is our fault or you're diverted to another city, and we don't board before 11:59 p.m. local time on your scheduled arrival day, we'll arrange an overnight stay or cover the cost of an approved hotel, if available," American Airlines says on its website.
Instead of waiting until the flight on Sunday evening, the Gill family caught an early-morning train to Raleigh on Friday. They spent $94.50 on train tickets and about $85 on Uber journeys to and from the train stations, receipts seen by Insider show.
This meant that they couldn't collect the two carry-on bags that American Airlines had asked Gill's husband and youngest daughter to check on their flight from Phoenix.
Her husband had gone to baggage claim in the early hours on Friday to collect their luggage on the advice of staff, but was told that the plane wouldn't be unloaded until 7 a.m. because no staff were on shift, Gill said.
Gill said American Airlines later told her that both bags had been scanned into the Raleigh airport.
She said her husband got his luggage back but that her daughter's distinctive purple suitcase still hadn't been returned, two months after her flight.
Gill said the family hadn't received any compensation for the lost luggage, but that the family did get $83 each for the canceled leg of their flight.
American Airlines didn't respond to Insider's request for comment. The airport told Insider that it was airlines' responsibility to arrange hotel vouchers for passengers in the event of cancellations.
Have you been affected by current travel disruptions? Or do you work at an airport or for an airline that's swamped by staffing and cancellation chaos? Email this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.