ACL goers and performers alike may have found their weekend trip extended on Sunday as they arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to find that dozens of Southwest Airline flights had been canceled due to "disruptive weather."
The national airline cancelled 72 flights in Austin on Sunday and Monday morning and delayed 65 more, leaving weekend travelers stranded and forced to find alternate ways home during one of the airport's busiest weekends.
Hundreds of travelers in Austin, including ACL performer Maggie Rose, found themselves working through the issues for hours with backlogged customer service employees.
@SouthwestAir Stranded in Austin Texas after playing ACL. Would LOVE to talk with someone about our experience with you from the 48 hours ASAP. Spent too much time and money trying to find solution and the expense is ever-increasing, we love you guys but this is absolute chaos.
— Maggie Rose (@IAmMaggieRose) October 10, 2021
Many—including Austinites Jillianne, Laura and Heather, who told KVUE they drove 20 hours to Washington, D.C. to attend a wedding amid the chaos—spent hundreds or even thousands working to fix their traveling woes.
Nationwide, Southwest canceled or delayed well over 2,000 flights on Sunday—over 60% of its planned flights—and attributed the widespread chaos with air traffic control and bad weather conditions in a Twitter apology.
ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/o1scQJ5lLb
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 9, 2021
But some frustrated customers, many of whom saw near-sunny skies, thought the airlines' vaccine mandate for pilots may have been the culprit. Austin saw clear skies through Sunday afternoon but was hit with storms late Sunday night.
Travelers claimed that airline employees talked of a "sick-out" among pilots who refused to comply with the mandate.
Talked to some bartenders in Austin airport, Pilots are striking due to vaccine mandate. Place is a zoo with all the cancellations.
— yaphy (@yaphentologist) October 10, 2021
The "sick-out" theory, which has been unsubstantiated by the company, got the attention of conservative politicians including Senator Ted Cruz.
Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work!
Suddenly, we're short on pilots & air traffic controllers.#ThanksJoehttps://t.co/wviOzLt7Iv
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 10, 2021
The airline denied the allegations in a press release on Saturday.
"We can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions," the company said. "Our pilots will continue to overcome SWA management's poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges."
Regardless of the culprit, travelers going through the Austin airport are hoping to see some clearer communication and financial compensation as the nationwide travel turbulence begins to subside.
Stranded in Austin no thanks to @SouthwestAir. You need to do a lot better than offering me a pathetic $200 voucher for my canceled flight!!!
— Megan Murphy (@Vinca_minor84) October 10, 2021
But many, including Orange County resident Lisa Szal, are resigned to reschedule flights with other carriers as they await a hopeful refund.
Szal, who couldn't get access to a live agent for a refund on her flight early Monday morning, told Austonia she's jumping ship to American Airlines for weeks to come, including a conference trip to Colorado on Sunday.
"It's funny because I just thought, 'I don't have any faith that I'm even going to get there,'" Szal said. "So I booked another flight on American."
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.