Boy, sorry to hear that. I was in Florida for the big snowstorm in 2010 that collapsed the Dome roof. When we got to Atlanta to connect we knew the weather was bad so we got off the plane and went right to the connecting flight screen (we were all young and hadn’t flown much) and asked someone “why can’t we find the flights outbound to Minneapolis?” to which an airline employee replied “because there aren’t any.”
I’m guessing they all live here in MN and would like to get back ASAP? If so, my best advice is to understand that there are thousands and thousands of other people trying to do the same thing and do what they can to get in front of that proverbial line of thousands. Have someone in the group stand in line at a counter (if they’re still at the airport) while someone else calls the airline, see who makes progress first.
Also, if there’s not a problem with this they should be flexible enough to add some connections to their flight. Maybe there’s tons of flights from, say, Charlotte to MSP and if they can get to Charlotte they’ll be able to hop on one much easier. In the short term adding connecting stops seems like it delays getting home but if it’s done right it can help.
Another thing that may not apply and may be hard to do: Do some looking at where else in this country this storm is going. I only paid attention to what this storm would to do MN but if it keeps going east it may affect other upper midwest states. In my 2010 example I thought I had a sweet deal lined up to connect in Indianapolis until I realized that the 22″ storm was going to hit there as well and I didn’t want to be stranded in another city again.
Also, understand that it’s possible they maybe be able to find a flight here or there with 1, maybe 2 seats. I don’t know their situation but if they’re willing to split up that could help. Me and my 6 work buddies came home from Atlanta by way of Kansas City and Boston.
In the mean time, if they have to spend the night, sometimes airlines or the airport will be able to give them a coupon or voucher to get a discounted room at a hotel that likely has a shuttle.