Stranded Fliers Get Busy Signals


"We are seeing higher than normal call volumes due to the storm, but we have been reminding our customers about the online tools we have for them to check flight status, be proactively notified about their flight or make changes to waiver-eligible flights online," US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said.

Fees Waived

Most airlines have waived change fees for passengers willing to travel at a later date.

But making changes online -- the new norm in the travel world -- isn't easy for everybody. This is especially true when code-share flights, in which one airline sells tickets on another carrier, are involved.

Allison Winfield learned the hard way after booking a ticket on Travelocity from New Jersey to visit family for New Year's in Chicago. The flight -- Continental 6647 -- uses a plane operated by United Airlines, which recently merged with Continental.

"If you use the online engine, there is no notification that your fee will be waived," she said of Continental's site.

So she called Travelocity and United, which referred her to Continental. Despite numerous calls and spending hours on hold, she has had no luck with Continental. After 45 minutes with a looping message telling her to stay on the line, the phone switched over to a busy signal.

"While I was thinking yesterday that I would reschedule, now I am just thinking: Give me my money back," she said.

Continental spokeswoman Christen David said, "We have all available resources handling calls, including all supervisory personnel and hundreds of home agents. We're reiterating that the fastest and most convenient way to change travel plans is via"

Hitting the Road Home

Other travelers are just giving up and hitting the roads. Alan Locher and partner Ray Turoczy were stuck in North Carolina after visiting family. They were supposed to fly back Tuesday but were told by JetBlue that the next available flight would be at 6 a.m. New Year's Day.

"My reaction was pretty much wow," Locher said.

The airline never sent them notification of a flight cancellation. They only learned of the cancellation when Locher tried to print out their boarding passes in advance.

So they rented a car and set out for an 11-hour drive home. Not the worst situation, he said, but not ideal.

Emilian Emeagwali and her five children spent nearly a week at Disney World when their flight to New York's Kennedy Airport was canceled Sunday because of the blizzard.

They took a flight to Buffalo and planned to take public transportation back to their home in Long Island, N.Y.

Once in Buffalo, they discovered no buses or trains were in service, the New York Times reported.

So they opted to take a 13-hour $900 cab ride.

"It was so dark the snow was all over the wind blowing ... I was so scared …, " Emeagwali said. "He [cab driver] was so careful he was driving like 30 miles per hour and if the visibility was too bad he would stop and if any of the kids needed to use the bathroom or need to stretch he would stop."

After leaving Disney World at 9 a.m. on Sunday, the family finally got back to their home on Monday at 10 a.m.

It's Like 'Lord of the Flies'

Those in the airports started to lose patience and civility. One frequent flier leaving Chicago said "O'Hare feels a bit like 'The Lord of the Flies' this morning ... at least for those trying to get to NYC."

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