(CNN) – What was supposed to be a special day this weekend instead turned into an emotional roller coaster for a bride whose family couldn’t attend her wedding after Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights across the country.
Kimberli Romano and Kyle Hlavaty live in Chicago with most of his family. The couple flew to Las Vegas for their weekend wedding on Wednesday, October 6 and had no issues.
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A bridesmaid’s flight was delayed on Friday. But it wasn’t until Saturday morning, the day before the wedding, that the couple became concerned that Romano’s parents would not make it.
Hlavaty’s friend was supposed to be on the same flight as Romano’s parents from Chicago Midway International Airport. He called to tell the couple that their flight had been canceled, and he didn’t know what was going on as he was still on hold with customer service.
“So I called my parents immediately and told them to check everything because we just got a notification that the flight has been canceled,” she said. “And, of course, it turned out to be, and I panicked. I was so emotional.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do was get married without my parents.”
Southwest said a number of issues caused the weekend cancellations, including bad weather and a brief glitch at the air traffic control center in Jacksonville, Fla. The issues caused minimal disruption to other airlines, and Southwest admitted to employees on Monday that things got out of hand when understaffed.
CNN has contacted Southwest Airlines for comment.
Two years of planning, a change of location
Romano and Hlavaty got engaged in October 2019. The couple immediately started planning a wedding in October 2021, and it was originally supposed to be near Chicago.
With everything so fluid due to the pandemic, the couple rethought their plans in March 2020 and opted for a smaller ceremony with 18 guests in Overton, Nevada, about 100 miles east of Las Vegas.
Romano’s family considered flying to nearby airports in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Diego – anything that would bring them nearby, but to no avail.
“Everyone was jostling each other. Kyle and I were trying to find flights. We obviously couldn’t reach anyone on the phone. We actually went to the Las Vegas airport to try and speak to an agent to see what we could do.
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“It’s unbearable for a lot of people,” she said. “And it’s very, very disappointing. I have stood up for Southwest for so long and been a loyal customer to them for so long, and the way we were treated at the airport – they were so rude and disrespectful and had absolutely no remorse for what whether it be. It is very upsetting.
Romano was able to take his parents on a scheduled flight out of Milwaukee Sunday morning at 6 a.m., but learned at midnight that even that flight had also been canceled.
Other than Hlavaty’s mother and aunt, who had flown to Las Vegas earlier in the week, the couple had no family present. Her parents watched via FaceTime as their daughter walked down the aisle.
“The service was spotty because we were in the mountains and everything, but my mom said she could see most of it,” Romano said. “She couldn’t hear anything but she could see most of it.”
More than 2,000 miles from your home
The couple considered postponing the wedding, but their parents encouraged them to continue.
“We were discussing what to do,” she said. “But then that was why we worked so hard. This is what we had saved for so long.
Not having his family present on his way to marriage was heartbreaking for Romano. The newlyweds plan to celebrate again when they return from their honeymoon, but she said it wouldn’t be the same.
“Honestly, there is nothing they (Southwest Airlines) can do that can make up for what has already been lost, what has been taken from me, basically,” she said. “You know, these are memories that can’t be replaced by just having another one.”
She always wants an apology.
“I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been enormously inconvenienced by what happened this weekend,” she said. “I look for a sincere apology more than anything else. Money for money. Money does not bring back memories.
The pair are currently in California and plan to drive back to Chicago next Tuesday.
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