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ACL goers, weekend travelers stranded in Austin after sweeping Southwest Airlines cancellations

Southwest Airlines saw dozens of cancellations in Austin and thousands nationwide amid one of the busiest travel weekends. (ABIA)

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.

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.

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.

The "sick-out" theory, which has been unsubstantiated by the company, got the attention of conservative politicians including Senator Ted Cruz.

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.

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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