Local

Northeast Snowstorm Delays Travelers Nationwide

By Selena Hernandez, CBS 11 News
Travelers look at a flight information screen at JFK International Airport in New York City. (credit: Daniel Barry/Getty Images)

Travelers look at a flight information screen at JFK International Airport in New York City. (credit: Daniel Barry/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Much of the northeast United States is stuck under several inches of snow, which has caused some major headaches at airports across the nation as travelers try to return home after the holidays. Overnight and into Monday morning, three of the busiest airports in the country – JFK Airport and La Guardia Airport in New York and Newark Airport in New Jersey – shut down until Monday afternoon because snow plows couldn’t keep up with the storm.

The canceled and delayed flights could leave some passengers traveling to the New England area stranded for several days. More than 5,000 flights have been impacted on Monday alone, and once airports re-open, travelers will have a hard time finding open seats on these later flights. Seats were already scarce because of the busy holiday season, and airlines are operating fewer flights than they did before the economic recession.

But what does that mean for flights arriving and departing locally?

Believe it or not, as of early Monday morning, a majority of flights both in and out of DFW Airport and Love Field seem to be on time. There are a few cancellations, but given the severity of the northeast snowstorm, it does not seem to be too bad for travelers in the Metroplex, provided they are not trying to get to the northeast.

As one might expect, flights scheduled for arrival and departure in northeastern cities – New York, Boston, Newark, Philadelphia – have been canceled. But travel within the state of Texas and to other parts of the country are currently unaffected by those cancellations.

Naturally, the status of flights can change several times throughout the day. Before going to the airport, be sure to check with the airline, either over the phone or online, to guarantee that your flight is still scheduled to be on time.

Air travel is not the only form of transportation that has been impacted by the snow. Amtrak has also canceled a number of scheduled routes into and out of the New York City area. And many roadways in the northeast have been closed because they were deemed too dangerous.

The snowy roads have kept many travelers not only stranded in different cities, but stranded at the airports themselves. Travel writer Jason Cochran arrived at the airport on Sunday afternoon for a flight to London, and was stuck on a plane for hours before the flight was canceled. He was not able to return to his Manhattan home because, at that point, there was no way to leave the airport. Cochran said that only one cab driver was willing to take him home… for $100.

Northeast Travel Information: New York City | Boston | Philadelphia

Nearly two feet of snow fell on New York City, along with winds that blew at nearly 60 mph. The same storm also dumped 12.4 inches of snow on Phildadelphia. “You take it for what it is,” said one delayed New York traveler. “If you travel, you got to be prepared for any of the elements.”

Students from Columbia University, including 22-year-old Eric Schorr, were on an El Al flight to Israel on Sunday afternoon at New York City’s JFK Airport. But the students found themselves stuck on the tarmac when it became clear that the plane would not take off. “They had served us dinner, they were giving us drinks, trying to keep passengers calm, cool and collected,” Schorr said. “It wasn’t as tense as you might have thought. People are exhausted. They want to get home.”

Ed Martelle, an American Airlines spokesman in New York City, said that flight schedules may not return to normal until Wednesday, but again, not every stranded passenger will have a seat at that time. “Any airline scheduler will tell you it’s like playing with a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces keep changing shape,” Martelle said. “In some cases, we can’t give them a new seat because we don’t know [when one will be available].”

Airline reservation centers were kept busy on Monday, fielding calls from displaced travelers, some of whom reported being put on hold for over an hour. Continental Airlines tweeted that it was taking as many calls as it could handle, and asked customers to remain patient. American Airlines, meanwhile, called in extra employees to help staff the busy phones.

Phil Orlandella is a spokesman for Boston’s Logan Airport. He said that delays could last into Friday, when the new year will bring the start of another busy holiday travel weekend.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)