Storm Impact Continues For Air Passengers

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Storm Impact Continues For Air Passengers

Associated Press

Air passengers delayed by the fierce snowstorm in the Northeast – and the closure of some of the busiest airports in the country -- are telling nightmare scenarios, with many travelers still trying to get home from the Christmas holiday.

At least 5,000 flights were canceled at the three New York airports – LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark – during the storm and its aftermath, and the backlog caused by those closures is being felt across the country. Officials say it will be days before things get back to normal.

Annie Scott, who blogs for Gadling, discovered the hard way that delays into the three New York airports continue.

Scott started trying to get home to New York from Minneapolis on Sunday, when her American Airlines flight was canceled. She looked for other flights and eventually was booked on a flight for early this morning to LaGuardia. Except the flight didn't take off as scheduled.

Speaking with AOL Travel News from the airport in Minneapolis, Scott says passengers were told LaGuardia has a ground stoppage. "Apparently LaGuardia can't handle any incoming traffic," she says.

Passengers on her flight were told they will take off later today. Scott sure hopes so.

"I hear if we can't and I need to rebook we can't get out until Jan. 4," Scott says. "I am just hoping onto this flight with both hands hoping I can get out today."

But Scott may be one of the lucky ones.

Passengers Stranded at Airport

Workers remove snow from the tarmac at New York's LaGuardia Airport on December 28, 2010; Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Jason Cochran, who works for WalletPop, was stranded in Terminal 4 at New York's JFK Airport for a horrifying 32 hours, sleeping on the floor, dealing with long lines for limited food, a lack of toilet paper and other inefficiencies, and surrounded by unhappy travelers.

Cochran was booked to travel to London on Virgin Atlantic, and tweeted much of his JFK nightmare, which began with a 3 ½ hour wait on the tarmac as snow came down "fast and furious" on Sunday.

Speaking with AOL Travel News from London, Cochran says it was obvious the flight should have been canceled, and in fact he tried to delay his trip but was told he would be charged a fee to make the change.

Once the plane was able to get back to the gate, passengers who were hoping to head home found trains and buses from the airport weren't running and the few available taxis were gouging passengers. Many were forced to camp out at the airport.

"It was a complete disaster," Cochran says.


Luggage was not off-loaded from the plane and the airline did not arrange for hotels and only had limited numbers of blankets. Some passengers got to the point where they threatened violence against airline staff, Cochran says. Port Authority police were called in to monitor the situation.

After many hours passed, "One British passenger threatened to bust through a door that went out to the tarmac," Cochran says. "So much of the anger went to Josie (an airline agent) with freaking out passengers saying 'You've been lying to us this whole time.'"

The airport was crowded with other stranded travelers too, taxing limited facilities. "The lines were literally 2 ½ hours long for a KFC sandwich," Cochran says. "There were passengers from Egypt, El Al, Swiss Air, we were all marooned." Many, he adds, were waiting for planes that couldn't get into JFK.

Cochran's flight finally took off at 12:15 a.m. Tuesday morning.

But the "snowpocalypse" saga continues for many. Yesterday, four flights were stuck on the runway at JFK for more than seven hours, one Cathay Pacific flight for nearly 12 hours. Much finger pointing is going on between airlines and the airport as to why no gates were available to de-plane passengers

Passengers Stranded at Airport

The Beguinot family of Paris, France camps out atop a baggage conveyor in Terminal B following a major blizzard that hit the area at Newark Liberty International Airport; Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

"It wasn't fun with three children sitting there," Vincent Butcher tells CNN. "We were already delayed three or four hours getting onto the plane (in Vancouver). And then once we arrived, to have to sit there for 12 hours wasn't the best."

Gigi Godfrey arrived at JFK after a 16-hour flight from Hong Kong, only to sit on the tarmac in the plane for 10 hours.

"I teared up a little bit I am not going to lie. I was just so tired. I just wanted to get off the plane, I wanted to get home," Godfrey says.

Passengers heading to other Northeast airports were impacted as well.

David Denny, 44, a civil engineer from Boston, headed to Virginia for Christmas, booking a flight home for Sunday. He didn't expect it to take him more than 48 hours to get a flight home.

"They cancelled my flight 30 minutes before it was scheduled to leave," Denny tells AOL Travel News. No problem, he thought. He watched football at the Norfolk airport and eventually made his way to a hotel. But Monday he was told there would be no space on flights to Boston for at least two days.

Denny decided to try his luck elsewhere, catching a ride with relatives to Washington and getting on a Tuesday night flight out of Dulles.

"You've got to roll with it," says Denny who has missed two days of work. "These things happen."

A bright spot was Newark airport where there were some delays and cancelations yesterday, though most flights were taking off and landing as scheduled, according to The Associated Press.


Claire Abdul, a 71-year-old nurse's assistant, who was trying to get home to Trinidad, spent two nights at Newark including trying to sleep on a carpeted patch near a baggage carousel. Her pillow was her overnight bag. She had three boarding passes – two for canceled flights and one for a flight she hoped would get her home. "Every day I get a new one," she said.

Delayed New York-bound passengers were complaining in San Francisco about not getting food after sitting on a Delta plane for nearly three hours due to the East Coast logjam.

"It's an outrage," Juliana Bunim -- a former local news editor for The San Francisco Examiner -- says in an email to the newspaper. "No one has offered me pretzels and I might pass out."

Meanwhile, the blizzard that left thousands stranded and flights grounded will cost the airline industry up to $150 million, analysts are predicting.

"It's going to be tens of millions (of dollars) for sure," says Bob Harrell, an airline industry consultant. "Repositioning and recovery from a major operational disruption is very expensive, and it's very inefficient."

(Kim Foley MacKinnon contributed to this report.)

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