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Winter storm could strand air passengers for days

An East Coast blizzard that has shut down airports in New York
and New England could leave passengers stranded for days.
Hundreds of people were stuck Monday morning at the three major
New York City-area airports. Port Authority spokeswoman Sara Beth
Joren said they expected to reopen the runways in the afternoon.
Airlines announced more than 1,000 canceled flights for Monday.
Once the airports reopen, passengers will have a hard time
finding open seats on later flights. Seats are already scarce
because of the busy holiday season, and airlines are operating
fewer flights than they did before the recession.
Boston's Logan Airport spokesman Phil Orlandella said airlines
were saying that rebooking could drag into Friday - the start of
another holiday weekend.
Airlines move planes away from the path of big storms to prevent
them from being stranded. Now the airlines have to get those planes
back to the Northeast before they can fly stranded passengers home.
They may also have to ferry pilots and flight attendants into the
affected areas.
American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle said if the weather
clears by Tuesday, the airline can resume a normal schedule by
Wednesday. He declined to say how long stuck passengers might wait
for an empty seat.
"Any airline scheduler will tell you it's like playing with a
jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces keep changing shape," he said.
"In some cases we can't give them a new seat because we don't
know" when one will be available.
By midmorning, American canceled 236 flights for Monday and
sister carrier American Eagle scratched another 175. Delta Air
Lines canceled 700 flights, US Airways canceled 550 including
regional flights, and Southwest dropped 188. United and Continental
were updating their figures but had already announced nearly 300
cancelations.
The paralyzing storm in the Northeast comes a week after several
inches of snow shut down London's Heathrow Airport and left
travelers sleeping on terminal floors. It took five days for
Europe's busiest hub airport to resume normal operations.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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