A bride missed her own wedding, lost thousands and spent New Year's alone after Southwest canceled her flight




A man stands at a Southwest counter helping flyers.
A man stands at a Southwest counter helping flyers.  
  • Katie Demko was supposed to get married in Belize on December 30.

  • But she told Insider she missed the wedding after Southwest canceled her December 27 flight.

  • Thousands have been stranded across the US due to Southwest cancellations over the holidays.

A bride said she "cried all morning" on her wedding day after she missed the event because of a canceled Southwest flight.

St. Louis-based bride Katie Demko and her fiance, Michael, planned a destination wedding in Belize for December 30, as she told Insider.

He went to Belize ahead of Demko and she planned to take a Southwest flight on December 27 with her children to join him, she told Insider. She also said that she is a frequent Southwest flyer, taking the airline almost weekly for work.

But just before Demko's flight was supposed to board, the captain announced it had been canceled. Demko told Insider the passengers were told the flight was short three flight attendants.

She was unable to find another flight for herself and her children to make it to Belize on time for the wedding.

"I had about seven travel agents, and my whole family sat for 18 hours searching for a way to get us there," she said. "We even looked at flying to Cancun and getting a bus to drive us to Belize. There was nothing."

Departure flight board with cancelation at the Airport
Departure flight board with cancelation at the Airport  

She also tried to swap tickets with friends who were flying out December 28, but Southwest was unable to make the switch.

"I cried all morning on December 30," Demko said.

Southwest refunded Demko's flights, and she was able to postpone many of the services she bought for the wedding, like photography and decor, though she was not issued a full refund. She will have to get married in Belize in the future to recoup the costs.

But the resort where she and her guests were planning to stay, Victoria House, cannot postpone reservations or issue refunds, which means Demko, her fiance, and their guests are losing thousands as a result of the cancellation.

"In total, it is well over $70k lost in rooms at Victoria House," she told Insider.

Demko is just one of thousands of Americans whose Southwest flights were canceled during Christmas weekend amid storms and the airline's operational meltdown, as the company's CEO Bob Jordan described it. Southwest accounted for 50% of worldwide canceled flights on December 26, leaving customers stranded across the US.

southwest
southwest  

The chaos led to countless stories like Demko's, including a couple who missed their $4,000 honeymoon and a family who lost $7,000 and a trip to Tokyo because of their canceled flight.

In the wake of the cancellations, Southwest issued a statement saying the company had been "fully staffed and prepared" for the slew of holiday traffic until the winter storm "forced daily changes to our flight schedule."

"We recognize falling short and sincerely apologize," the statement went on to say.

But airline experts told Insider that Southwest's staffing and a dated scheduling systems, also contributed to the chaos.

Demko told Insider that Southwest hasn't contacted her, even after she appeared on CNN to discuss her experience on December 29.

"Not once has Southwest tried to contact me even to just apologize," she said, adding she was particularly surprised by the lack of contact because she flies Southwest so often. "I know they are probably dealing with a ton because of the whole mess, but not one single person from that company has reached out."

Demko and her fiance spent New Year's Eve apart and unmarried because of the debacle.

"On New Year's Eve, I sat at my house and talked to Michael who was sitting in Belize and we said Happy New Year, knowing that we were not ringing in 2023 as husband and wife as we had hoped to do," she said.

Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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