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Friends in Austin for wedding driving 20 hours back to East Coast after Southwest Airlines flight cancellations

The group told KVUE the rental car cost them about $450 for 36 hours.

AUSTIN, Texas — Southwest Airlines customers at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and across the country experienced a large number of cancelations this weekend.

The airline canceled at least 80 destinations out of AUS on Sunday. These cancellations led to travelers scrambling to find alternate ways to make it back home, much like a group of friends visiting Austin for a wedding. 

Jillianne, Laura and Heather were supposed to fly out of Austin at 12:20 p.m. Sunday to Washington, D.C., via Southwest when they learned that morning their flight had been canceled.

RELATED: Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights at AUS, across the country

"We panicked and scrambled to figure out how we were going to get out of Austin. We ended up deciding on a car  ... we were able to finally rent a car and we're driving 20 hours to the East Coast," Jillianne told KVUE's Daranesha Herron on a Zoom call while driving on the road back home. 

Jillianne told KVUE their rental car reservation at the airport was not initially honored and were told they "were not accepting walk-ups or same-day reservations." Management ultimately reversed course on allowing same-day reservations, which the trio had done earlier that morning. 

Jillianne told KVUE the rental car cost $450 for 36 hours. KVUE's Daranesha Herron asked why they didn't take another flight, and Heather said she couldn't find flights home before Tuesday and that she needed to be home for work.

By the time of the interview Sunday afternoon, the group said they had not received any correspondence from Southwest about the cancellation and found out after they had checked the app. They also said they called, got a busy tone and couldn't get through to anyone.

Southwest Airlines sent KVUE the following statement Sunday amid the cancellations: 

"We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening. We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our Customers.

With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged. 

We’re working diligently to accommodate our Customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience. We’re offering Customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel. We know the frustration flight cancellations are creating for our Customers and Employees and we apologize, and we again thank everyone for patience as we work first to be safe, and second to be as quick as possible in solving disrupted plans."

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