Blizzard leaves lots of luggage behind
DENVER (AP) – The stranded travelers were gone from Denver International Airport by Tuesday, but the stranded suitcases were not.
The airport’s two biggest carriers, United and Frontier, said they had cleared out the backlog of travelers stuck at the terminal when a blizzard dumped to 2 feet of snow in the area, closing runways for 45 hours and marooning about 4,700 people at the airport Wednesday night.
But piles misdirected luggage remained Tuesday, lost in the rush to get passengers through the snowbound airport.
“We had bags that came without passengers, and passengers that came without bags,” Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas said.
Some passengers left their luggage behind in a rush to catch a standby flight or chose to leave the airport rather than wait for delayed bags, he said.
Neither United nor Frontier could say how many bags were left but said it was far more than normal.
Hodas said as long as passengers retain claim tickets, they should have no problem finding their possessions.
Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman at United, said the airline allows passengers to go online and enter their baggage ticket number, the same way parcel delivery companies allow customers to track shipments on the Internet.
McCarthy said United flew in extra crews and gate workers from across the country to help in Denver. The airline also swapped out bigger planes on some routes and flew extra flights.
The company will review its procedures and assess its performance in coming days, she said.
“Having an airport closed for two days is very rare for us, too,” she said. “Looking back on it, we did everything we could.”
Airport officials plan to meet Wednesday to review the two-day closure, airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said.
While it took time to clear the airport, Cannon said there is more to getting an airplane off the ground safely than plowing a runway. Crews must clear associated taxiways, deicing areas and gates to allow airplanes to move around. In addition, plowing is slow work because crews must avoid damaging runway lights.
The work also depends on airline and airport workers being able to get to the airport to report for duty.
Cannon said that although Denver International is city-owned, it operates without tax money. The facility is self-supporting and lost thousands of dollars in passenger parking fees and airline landing fees.
With another snowstorm expected along the Front Range Thursday and Friday, Cannon said officials always advise travelers to keep an eye on the weather and stay in contact with their airlines if a storm appears imminent.
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In Eagle County, the most commonly reported dead bird has been the Wilson’s warbler, which is yellow. Dead yellow-rumped warblers have also been a common sight.