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How Southwest’s Flight Cancellations Impacted the Boston Marathon

There’s not much the pandemic hasn’t delayed — Sunday travel to Boston was no exception. But some runners feared they might not make it at all.

Daniel Galvez had a flight from Chicago to Boston late Saturday afternoon but was faced with several delays before the flight was finally canceled. The reason was because the crew was short a flight attendant, he said.

Galvez took an Uber back to his house, got into his truck and drove through the night. He left Chicago at 8:30 p.m. Central time on Saturday and arrived at about 1:45 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, stopping only for gas and water. “I made it here,” said Galvez, a construction worker who is running in his 10th Boston Marathon, which he calls the Super Bowl of marathons. “Next is to finish.”

Across social media, too, runners tweeted at airlines including Delta and Southwest, sharing stories of flights terminated just as boarding began, delays that led to missed connections, struggles to connect with agents to rebook flights and cancellations that meant spending hundreds of extra dollars to make it in time for Monday’s start.

By Sunday night, Southwest Airlines had canceled more than 1,000 flights or nearly 30 percent of its schedule, according to a FlightAware tracker. The airline blamed air traffic control issues and disruptive weather, but federal regulators attributed the disruptions to aircraft and staffing issues.

Tammy Conquest picked up her bib on Sunday afternoon, relieved to have her kit safely in hand. Conquest was traveling from Washington, D.C., and also encountered delays at the airport. But some of her running partners from Washington and other racers have not been as lucky. “I have friends who are stranded trying to get to Boston,” said Conquest, who works for the government. Their flights were canceled, then their Amtrak trains faced lengthy delays, she said.

“It’s my third marathon, but it feels like my first,” Conquest said, adding that the backdrop of the pandemic added to her race-day nerves.