Monday, November 27, 2000

Airport delays frustrate travelers

By Joe Wessels
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Tempers flared and anxiety levels soared as some Thanksgiving travelers' connecting flights were missed, canceled or overbooked Sunday at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        That's not unexpected on the busiest air travel day of the year.

        With the Air Transport Association predicting a record 2.24 million passengers nationwide, airport officials were bracing for the worst. Cincinnati's airport expected 1,200 flights Sunday — nearly one every minute on three runways.

        At midafternoon, a number of flights in the Delta and Comair terminal were either delayed or canceled.

        “For the most, our flights have been operating most efficiently,” Comair spokesman Nick Miller said Sunday night. “It was an incredibly busy day. There were people under a lot of pressure.”

        Exact statistics on weekend problems were not available yet, he said. Delta officials could not be reached for comment.

        About 4 p.m. Sunday, several Delta passengers from a late Newark to Cincinnati flight ran through the concourse hoping to catch a connecting Comair flight. Delta Air Lines owns Comair, a smaller regional jet service.

        Among them were Jay Phelan, 54, a Navy flight surgeon, and his wife, Bonnie, 52, both sprinting, arms filled with luggage. They were on their way to the Mobile, Ala., airport, then driving home to Pensacola, Fla. Their original flight from Newark left the gate on time but sat on the runway for a half hour, Mr. Phelan said.

        “They said we had a half hour (leeway) in the schedule,” he said. “Why were we 50 minutes late?”

        Arriving at the Comair gate, they found the flight booked and ready to leave, just minutes past the scheduled departure. “They extended (the departure) five minutes, and they still won't let us on,” an angry Mr. Phelan said.

        He expressed his displeasure with airline officials.

        “We're going to do our best to get people on this plane,” Comair customer service lead agent Maria Sheanshang told the Phelans

        in a raised voice across the counter.

        The Phelans did not make the flight; they were rerouted through Dallas, then on to Mobile.

        “You sometimes simply cannot put the passenger on the flight, but always do the best job we can,” Mr. Miller said. “Sometimes the circumstances are not the most ideal.”

        Chaz Kargleder, 61, and his sister, Shirley Kargleder, 54, came to Cincinnati to continue a 35-year Thanksgiving tradition. Each year they come to visit longtime friends, Joel and Fran Warm of West Chester Township.

        “Service has been fine so far,” Mr. Kargleder said while eating a sandwich in the Comair terminal Sunday, waiting for a flight to Mobile, Ala. “Curbside check-in was great.”

        Katie Loosigian got to Boston's Logan airport four hours early for her 1 p.m. flight to Dayton, Ohio — just in case. But she was parked, checked in and ready to board her flight with hours to spare.

        “I couldn't believe it when I heard,” she said. “But this has been great so far.”

        Sitting patiently in the airport, waiting for a friend to exit a flight, John Harmon, 21, a student at Miami University in Oxford, seemed glad he was not flying Sunday.

        “It's pretty crazy,” the Cleveland native said of the crowds around him. “It's more hectic than usual.”


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