Local News

Competition fierce for standby seats on RDU flights

Posted December 28, 2010 12:58 p.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2010 10:42 a.m. EST

— As the number of flights taking off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport increased Tuesday, so did the competition for seats among travelers who have been stuck at the airport since Sunday.

Airports in the Northeast began to return to normal schedules Tuesday after two days of disruptions because of the same same storm system that dumped up to a foot of snow on North Carolina.

The backlog of travelers who have been trying to fly out of RDU since Sunday are now scrambling for any available seats on planes headed to New York, Boston and elsewhere.

Beverly Stowe and her son, Jake, had been visiting relatives in Fuquay-Varina for the Christmas holiday, but their Sunday flight to New York was canceled.

"The flights were canceled Monday. We called (Tuesday) morning, and there was room – eight seats – but now I find out that a (flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport) was canceled. So, all of those people are going to go onto our flight," Beverly Stowe said.

"The woman at the counter said that she wouldn't try (Tuesday) if it was her," she continued. "I said, 'But we're here. We're here. We want to go home."

RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said 22 arrivals and departures were canceled on Tuesday, down from more than 100 on Monday.

Angela Ross and her 8-year-old daughter, Kayla, can't get a flight home to California until Wednesday. They were supposed to leave on Sunday.

"I couldn't believe it because I was thinking perhaps (we could fly out Monday)," Ross said.

She said she didn't want to spend three days in the airport with her daughter, so Delta Airlines paid for them to spend two nights at a nearby Hilton Garden Inn. Ross is paying for the third night.

Kayla said she was enjoying her stay. She went shopping and to a movie with her mother and has had time to play with her Christmas toys.

"I like it because I like staying in hotels," she said.

Her mother, on the other hand, had had enough by Tuesday.

"It's nice to come visit (and) see family and friends, but after a few days, you're ready to get back home," Ross said.

Although Kerri and Jon Gaudelli said they initially felt fortunate to have scheduled their flight for Tuesday, their flight was eventually canceled. They had to spend the night in a Raleigh hotel before renting a car to drive to New York.

Other travel woes ease

Traveling by car and train also was getting easier Tuesday.

Major roads in the Triangle were fairly clear of snow and ice, but slick spots remained on some secondary roads. Shady areas and spots on hills where the sun hasn't been able to melt snow and ice, highway entrance and exit ramps and smaller residential streets were especially treacherous for drivers.

Some people were stranded for about 12 hours at the Amtrak station in downtown Raleigh early Tuesday before finally boarding a train. Snow had slowed rail service along much of the East Coast since Sunday, and a train that was supposed to arrive in Raleigh at 9 p.m. Monday didn't pull in until after 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"Nobody let us know there was this much of a delay. If I had known that, I probably wouldn't have come. I would have made other arrangements," said Virginia Travis, who planned to take a train to Tampa, Fla.

Travis and other passengers also complained that the train station wasn't heated properly for their overnight stay.

"I understand that the trains (are) delayed because of the weather and everything, but we've all been like Popsicles," Travis said. "There's been children here (and) elderly adults and just no relief from the cold."

An Amtrak spokesman said the temperature in the station was kept in the mid-60s. The company offered discounted hotel rooms for the passengers, he said, but many chose to wait at the station.