Spirit Airlines strike impacts car rental business

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Jennifer Grove - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As Spirit Airline's pilot strike continues, stranded passengers are getting desperate and having to consider other options to get to their destinations.

"A horse," Nicki Reno said with an enthusiastic laugh. "No seriously: walking. Because I need to get there; I have a job waiting for me out in California."

In the end, Reno says the four-wheel option was just too pricey to consider.

"As far as a rental car, I'm not too sure about that," she said. "It would cost me over $2,000 to drive to California, so I haven't considered that at all."

A group of friends down for a beach vacation say the extension of their trip was a treat at first, but now they are ready to get back home.

"I was considering renting a car and going back just driving," Diana Truss said. "But I can't handle 12 hours straight."

Lori Bartkowski agreed: "When you're used to doing that one-hour flight it makes a big difference."

Kim Fox and Debbie Wyatt did end up renting a car to get back to the beach from Atlanta.

"We could not get anything so we ended up having to walk from our hotel, down the road and beg for a one-way car to get here," Fox recounted.

Wyatt says she is certain other stranded passengers have had to make similar arrangements, which means good business for rental companies.

"Oh, I'm sure their business is booming because it's your only choice," Wyatt said.

Not all car rental companies are making bank, however. Some say the reality is quite the opposite.

"We are a privately-owned [company]," Jill Coates of U-SAVE Rentals explained. "We are not able to do one-ways. We are round-trip only, so we're not able to maximize off of anyone that is going to have to drive and would rather rent."

Coates says they are also impacted by the way reservations are handles in the rental car business.

"We don't have any recourse," she said. "We don't have their deposits to keep. Just like many other businesses down here, the hotels and others, when they cancel we're just left holding our inventory."

She says in the last few days, they have taken a major hit.

"We've seen a dramatic decrease in our numbers," Coates said. "We've had an excess of 33 percent every day of cancellations."

Coates says there is no question the Spirit Airlines strike is the culprit.

"Our other locations have not been affected," she explained. "It's been 100 percent due to the traffic at the airport location."

Like the ladies in line a the counter, Coates says they are waiting, ready for when the lines at the Spirit counters start moving again.

"We are really crossing our fingers and checking websites hourly," she said, "hoping things will turn around the next 24 to 48 hours and we can salvage the weekend."

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