An influx of travelers and a rental car fiasco led to one of the worst traffic jams at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday as Dell Match Play, NASCAR and Texas Relays came to a close. Some of the 8,252 travelers that passed through the airport before 8 a.m. turned to social media to share their frustrations over the chaos.
Columbus, Ohio, local Joey Dillon shared his story with Austonia after visiting Austin for the first time to play in a tennis tournament. While in town, Dillon said he enjoyed some great food, sights and “beyond perfect” weather.
When the time came to return home, Dillon arrived at the airport two hours early for his 9:10 a.m. flight and got stuck in a line stretching well down the street. Dillon said he waited 15 minutes without moving before he got worried.
My luck that my first time leaving the Austin airport was an apocalypse between Monday morning and both a NASCAR race and a PGA event this weekend.
We had to leave our rentals on the side of the road and security was easily at LEAST 2 hours hours deep. Thank you, pre-check 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/7RZuNfCqxE
— Joey Dillon (@joeydillon) March 28, 2022
“I asked the guy in the car next to me what was going on... He said that people were told to leave their cars and to start walking,” Dillon said, explaining that an airport worker came to ask his rental company, wrote it on the windshield and told him to walk back. “I just had to trust that everything would be taken care of because I couldn't afford to miss my flight.”
An airport spokesperson on Monday said that the jam started when a rental car stalled out at the drop-off curb and employees instructed them to leave it with the keys inside. Other passengers then followed suit, leaving a long line of empty cars and no way out. There were at least 1,600 more travelers than usual before 8 a.m. Monday.
Dillon said he got to TSA about an hour before his flight and seeing lines out the door was when he really got worried. Dillon said he had purchased TSA pre-check on a whim before he left for Austin, which he immediately became thankful for, and made it onto his flight on time.
“I know I was extremely lucky. Without pre-check, I wasn't getting home on time,” Dillon said. “It was definitely chaotic and you could feel some anxious energy just because their plans were unknown.”
Though the journey back was rocky, Dillon said it didn’t spoil his trip or memory of the city. He received a statement that his rental car was returned, so in the end, everything was taken care of for him.
Others trying to make their early morning flights weren't so lucky. Frustrated travelers missed their flights and had to wait in more lines to rebook.
Now a new fun rebooking line to wait in cause I obviously missed my flight. Am I in hell? pic.twitter.com/seOL01XA0B
— Nadley Doerge (@nadleydoe) March 28, 2022
As travel bounced back from pandemic lows, airport activity has been bustling: The top five busiest days in airport history are within the last two and a half years, with three of them in 2021. The airport is in the midst of updating some of its infrastructures to keep up with travel demand with its 2040 Master Plan, but changes aren't likely to come this year.
Hey @MayorAdler & @austintexasgov - this is unacceptable - this past Monday people abandoned rental cars it was so bad - we need an interim plan for @AUStinAirport before the terminal expansion https://t.co/PgvvGeSfK7
— Will Townsend (@WillTownTech) March 29, 2022
“The city or the airport should definitely get together and figure out logistics if they're going to have multiple massive events on one weekend. I think this all could've been prevented or at least we could've been made aware,” Dillon said. “It doesn't hurt my Austin experience and it's a funny travel story to tell, as well as a reason to keep my pre-check in the future.”
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Emmy Amash has always been the friend that people would go to with questions about sex, birth control and women’s health issues. It’s what called her to work as a birth doula and go to nursing school.
But during rotations around Austin, she’s noticed a shift in the trust between patients and healthcare providers, and it’s been happening under Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
“What I've seen working in the emergency room with women who are coming in experiencing complications after or during a miscarriage is a lot of what feels to me like mistrust and hesitancy to be sharing complete histories of what's going on,” Amash said.
Over the last 10 months, SB 8 has had a chilling effect on healthcare workers and patients that’s endangering people’s lives, says a new study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project in the New England Journal of Medicine. It also offers a glimpse at how the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—which is expected to outlaw or restrict abortion in almost half of the states—will make the risks to patients more common.
The study shared findings based on interviews with Texas clinicians and 20 people who had medically complex pregnancies and sought care under SB 8. The law—which bans abortion before many even know that they are pregnant—is aimed at those providing abortion care. But researchers say that, to the detriment of patients, it has an effect on other health care workers.
For example, a woman who took part in the study reported receiving a fetal diagnosis of trisomy 18, a rare condition lacking a cure that causes most babies to die before they are born. But the woman’s physician didn’t inform her about termination options.
“When you already have received news like that and can barely function, the thought of then having to do your own investigating to determine where to get this medical care and to arrange going out of state feels additionally overwhelming,” the woman said.
On the health provider side, Amash understands the frustration and secrecy of patients, citing Lizelle Herrera’s case as an example of the kind of situation patients may worry about running into.
Herrera, a 26-year-old in the Rio Grande Valley, was arrested on a murder charge in April for a self-induced abortion. She was held in jail for three days on a $500,000 bond until a local district attorney dropped the case.
🚨Breaking News!!!🚨 Charges are being dismissed for Lizelle Herrera!!! #Justice4Lizellepic.twitter.com/yG15cw74Oi
— Frontera Fund (@LaFronteraFund) April 10, 2022
But there could be more instances like Herrera’s, and Amash talked about what it’s been like to continue working amid added restrictions on abortion rights. It’ll only continue given that Texas and a dozen other states have a trigger law making abortion illegal after the repeal of Roe v. Wade. In Texas; it’ll go into effect within 30 days.
“I feel like I've been holding my breath,” Amash said. She went on to describe “feeling powerless to this larger system that's making these choices that's so far removed from the actual lives of individuals.”
But local officials are taking action in light of the high court's decision. Austin City Council will hold a special meeting the week of July 18 on a resolution aimed at decriminalizing abortion. Submitted by council member Jose "Chito" Vela, it would direct the police department to make criminal enforcement, arrest and investigation of abortions its lowest priority. But for Central Texans, it may only allow for a patchwork system in which only abortions within the city escape criminalization.
“That's nice, and also, it's just not enough,” Amash said. “Not enough for how big Texas is for us to have one little area. There's a lot of people here that need care and aren't going to have access to it.”
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