AUSTIN, Texas — It was news Luke Hill didn't want to hear on Sunday.
"My first thought was, 'That can't possibly be right,'" Hill said.
Southwest Airlines had canceled his flight to New Mexico – where he is set to get married later this week. Hill said he found out his flight was canceled when he logged into Southwest's app Sunday morning.
"I logged onto the website and I saw the same thing. And at that point, I was pretty frustrated and went through the options to rebook my flight. And as I was going through and rebooking, I saw that there was no other flight from Austin to Albuquerque, where I was going. There was no other flight today [Sunday], tomorrow and then the next earliest flight was Tuesday," Hill said.
Hill is getting married on Friday and some of his family members are already in New Mexico for the wedding.
"The last way you want to start the week of you getting married is having to comfort your crying fiancée over something going wrong immediately like, right off the bat," Hill said.
Southwest blamed air traffic control issues and weather disruptions for the cancellations. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pushed back on that claim, saying in a tweet, "No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday."
The flight cancellations are causing a lot of headaches for flyers like Hill and Jilliane Mattox, who is now driving 20 hours back to the East Coast after being met with limited flight options to get home.
"We scrambled. We panicked and then scrambled to figure out how we were going to get out of Austin," Mattox said.
The delays and cancellations come as Southwest's pilot union is fighting the airline's vaccine mandate. The union denied a pilot sickout was a factor in the cancellations, but Southwest acknowledged that operational issues have been a challenge.
The airline has apologized for the impacts the cancellations are having on flyers, but is also denying the disruption has anything to do with the vaccine mandate.
As for Hill and his fiancée, they were able to book a new flight on American Airlines that was scheduled to leave Monday morning. That new flight cost them about $500.
"At least we're on a flight. Like, we're 500 bucks short now, which kind of sucks, but at least, you know, we're going to be on a plane [Monday]," Hill said.
Hill said while the timing of the cancellation is unfortunate, it's the lack of notice that he found the most frustrating.
"I think anybody who is married would say that crazy things happen during your wedding week regardless that are out of your control. What is frustrating to me, though, is ... I had no kind of indication that this was going to happen. Didn't get a text message, I didn't get like, a notification in the app or an email saying that my flight had been canceled. You know, if I hadn't checked my boarding time first thing, we would have just gone straight to the airport and found out there," Hill said. "It's a little frustrating that it seemed like this was just totally out of the blue."
As of 6 a.m. Monday, FlightAware was showing 15 Southwest cancellations, down from 57 reported on Sunday. The Austin airport is expecting more than 29,000 flyers Monday following the end of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
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