U.S. News

Monday, December 21, 2009

Airlines scramble after winter storm delays flights

Airlines were scrambling to accommodate passengers affected by the cancellation of hundreds of flights after a monster weekend winter storm that blanketed a swath of the East Coast.

In addition to refunds, a spokesman for Delta Air Lines said the company is providing a weather waiver that allows passengers to reschedule without a penalty if they were scheduled to travel before Christmas.

"We're doing everything we can to accommodate customers to get them to their holiday destinations," said Paul Skrbec, Delta spokesman.

American Airlines said it would add extra flights, use bigger planes where possible and reflow passengers to other flights.

Passengers who were affected can switch flights with no change fees through Thursday, said Charley Wilson, airline spokesman.

Continental Airlines said though flights are extremely full because of the holidays, it is working on a "case-by-case basis" to ensure passengers get home for the holidays.

Passengers can also either get a refund or change their flights for free at Continental's Web site or through the 800 number, said spokeswoman Mary Clark.

Record snow blanketed some areas Sunday, including 23 inches in Bethesda, Maryland, and 24 inches in Medford, New Jersey. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, received 23.2 inches -- its second-highest snowfall ever in a single event.

East Coast travelers faced treacherous roads, and flight delays and cancellations Sunday. Dulles and Reagan National airports in Washington saw snowfall of 18 inches and 16.4 inches respectively -- the highest one-day totals ever for December.

At New York's LaGuardia Airport, some passengers were resigned to their fate.

"You sort of crumble once, get it over with and then put on a smile and just understand that's the weather and there's nothing you can do about it, really," said Mira Chopra, who was stranded at the airport.

Two people were killed in weather-related crashes, the Virginia State Police said Sunday, and "there are two additional deaths that are likely related to the winter storm."