US Airways starts moving travelers
PHILADELPHIA – Thousands of weary travelers spent a third day waiting to reach their destinations Sunday as US Airways struggled to recover from the ice and snow storm that paralyzed airports in the Northeast.Early Sunday the airline was trying to find seats for 100,000 passengers systemwide. The waiting time in lines in Philadelphia, a US Airways hub, was down to 30 to 45 minutes by Sunday night, spokeswoman Andrea Rader said. Waiting times were also better at the airline’s hub in Charlotte, N.C.”The lines are down to what is normal for a holiday weekend,” Rader said.Computer problems, airline staffing rules and other problems slowed US Airways’ attempts to clear the backlog. In addition, the airline’s flights on Sunday were already nearly sold out with 275,000 passengers booked, the airline said.Airline officials were trying to round up spare planes and crew members to work on added flights. Rader said the company hoped to be back to near normal Monday.Passengers in Philadelphia reported waiting three hours or more to rebook a ticket or reach a reservation agent by phone during the weekend. Automated US Airways kiosks at Philadelphia International Airport were also down at times, they said.US Airways operates two-thirds of the approximately 1,200 daily flights in Philadelphia.Many of the travelers waiting for seats were stranded at the airport. Disposable blankets and pillows were handed out to several hundred people Saturday night, down from an estimated 1,000 or more people the night before, a spokeswoman said.”Once the passengers were rebooked and going through security, they were moving them (through) pretty quickly,” airport spokeswoman Phyllis VanIstendal said Sunday.Dan Stacey, 34, of Philadelphia, was at the airport Sunday trying to find his luggage. An Irish fiddler, Stacy had tried to fly Friday to Phoenix, where he was slated to perform in St. Patrick’s Day concerts.Instead, he said, he sat in a US Airways plane on the Philadelphia tarmac for hours. He then went back home – but found out Sunday that his luggage went to Phoenix, anyway.”I lamented the fact that I was the only Irish musician in America not working on St. Patty’s day,” Stacey said.There were also long lines at US Airways ticket counters in Pittsburgh on Sunday because of cancellations and delays at other airports, said JoAnn Jenny, spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.”It’s just a busy time of year with spring break … and then with that storm, that really put a wrench in the works for a lot of folks,” Jenny said.The storm stranded hundreds of passengers at New York’s Kennedy International Airport, including hundreds stuck on planes Friday night as aircraft were unable to take off or find space at gates.By Sunday, there were only scattered delays of up to two hours at New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, with some delays of up five hours at Newark Liberty, said Alan Hicks, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.From Friday to Saturday morning, more than 3,600 commuter and mainline flights were canceled nationwide because of the effects of the storm. JetBlue, US Airways, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines all reported cancellations.