December 6, 2013

Hundreds of flights canceled at DFW Airport

Many weary travelers were spending a second night in airport terminals or at local hotels because of the nasty weather.

Hunched over her luggage near an exit door at Terminal D, soccer player Madison Haubner, 17, feared that her chance to participate in a college talent showcase had taken a turn for the worse.

Haubner, of Plano, her younger sister, Mackenzie, and their mother, Rita, were among the hundreds of travelers stranded at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport when a winter storm unloaded freezing rain and sleet on taxiways and runways, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights on Thursday and Friday.

Many travelers said they were expecting to spend a second night in local hotels on Friday because of the icy conditions.

By Friday afternoon, the Haubners had already experienced two flight cancellations, and had to fork out $300 for an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency DFW, Rita Haubner said. Their next move was to take a taxi to Love Field in Dallas, where they hoped to catch a Southwest flight to Raleigh, N.C., site of the soccer showcase.

“We’re trying to do every possible thing we can do to get to North Carolina,” Madison Haubner said. “It’s a college showcase … I have to get there.”

Late Friday, the airport reported that about 4,000 travelers were hunkered down for the night in terminals, and that 1,000 more cots were being brought in, adding to 3,000 set out Thursday night.

Two runways were open Friday night, and a third was expected to be cleared Saturday morning, David Magana, an airport spokesman, said.

About 150 departures and 180 arrivals to DFW for Saturday had been canceled by late Friday, according to The aviation website was also reporting that American Eagle had canceled 229 flights on Saturday while American has canceled 52 flights.

On Friday, DFW officials said airlines canceled 760 departing flights out of DFW — about 90 percent of all scheduled flights. American Airlines and American Eagle reported more than 1,400 flight cancellations system-wide, including DFW, on Friday. An email from American said “our employees are working hard to enable the airline to return to more of a normal operation on Saturday.”

But there was nothing normal about Friday.

About 1:30 p.m. on Friday, a limited number of flights were coming and going and every departing flight was de-iced before takeoff.

“DFW Airfield Operations crews are plowing, treating and monitoring the runways, ramps and taxiways on the airfield,” Magana said in an email. “DFW has maintained runway capacity sufficient to satisfy the demand for airline departures with at least one runway open throughout the day.”

Motorists were also struggling to get to their destination because of dicey conditions on bridges and terminal entrances, even though surfaces had been treated by airport workers.

At Terminal D, stranded travelers like the Haubners milled around exit doors and the baggage claim area. Others were heading to area hotels. DFW’s on-site hotel, the Hyatt Regency, filled up quickly.

“It is extremely busy here,” said one Hyatt concierge early Friday afternoon.

Restaurants, bars and shops were packed with weary travelers, who also received water and snacks from DFW. Youngsters were given coloring books to pass the time.

Sandra and Al Marzilli, of Orange County, Calif., were among those who were expecting to remain a second night at a local hotel because their flight had been rescheduled more than once.

It had become a costly trip to visit their son, a top administrator at the University of Texas at Tyler, for the an extended Thanksgiving holiday, the Marzillis said. The couple, for example, had to spend $50 in taxi fares (each way) to-and-from the airport because the shuttle at their hotel was not operating.

“If we want to see snow, we can drive there in two hours,” Al Marzilli said.

“But we would do it all over again,” Sandra Marzilli said. “It was well worth it to spend 10 days with our son and his family. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

Not everyone had a tough time at the airport, though.

Lydia Grabowski, of Las Colinas, had been in Montreal for work and arrived at the airport early Friday afternoon.

“We had a great experience,” she said. “There were no delays. When we landed here, it got a little rough, but we were really lucky.”

One thing’s for sure, she said, the weather in Montreal was a lot nicer than at home.

“It was 35 degrees in Montreal,” Grabowski said. “And there was no snow. I had a feeling it was going to be bad back home.”

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