- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Airport closings from the snowstorm that hit the Washington area during the weekend are putting a financial pinch on airlines and businesses dependent on them.
Ronald Reagan Washington National and Baltimore-Washington International airports remained closed yesterday.
Washington Dulles International Airport was operating with two runways. However, airlines flew no more than 10 percent of their normal flight schedule out of the airport.
Reagan Airport, where 16 inches of snow fell by yesterday afternoon, plans to resume flights this morning.
The storm is adding to the financial problems of major airlines, who are struggling desperately to regain their financial footings. The airline industry lost $9 billion last year from the recession and the lingering effects of the September 11 attacks.
Arlington-based US Airways operates the most flights of any airline out of Reagan Airport, which was one of five East Coast airports closed because of the snowstorm.
"At this point, we have canceled over 500 flights," said Amy Kudwa, US Airways spokeswoman. "There will be a ripple effect throughout the airline."
Any return to regular operations depends on the weather, Miss Kudwa said.
US Airways lost $1.65 billion last year and filed for bankruptcy in August.
American Airlines, the nation's largest air carrier, canceled 550 East Coast flights. It was losing about $5 million a day before the storm while trying to avoid bankruptcy by cutting costs.
"We have canceled nearly every flight scheduled to operate into or out of the Northeast," said Todd Burke, American Airlines spokesman. The airline operates about 2,400 flights daily throughout its network.
It is not yet clear what the cancellations will cost airlines.
"It's far too early to know any impact," Mr. Burke said.
Other carriers, such as United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, also canceled flights at the region's three major airports. Many airlines are allowing passengers to rebook flights without penalty throughout the week.
Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich estimated that the snowstorm had cost the state $20 million to $30 million.
Airport officials said the timing of the snowfall helped keep many passengers from being stranded. The snow started falling Sunday morning, after most travelers already arrived at their destinations for the three-day Presidents Day weekend.
Airlines and airports used television and radio to notify travelers about flight cancellations and airport closings.
"We got the word out early," said Tara Hamilton, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Reagan and Dulles airports. "The timing of the storm made a difference because it came very early in the morning."
Travelers at Dulles Airport were told to expect delays of two to three hours. Officials at all three of the region's airports said normal flight operations probably would take at least until Thursday.
Many retail shops in the airports were not operating.
"We kept a news stand open for stranded passengers and airport personnel" at Reagan Airport, said Matt Ehrie, regional manager for Westfield Concession Management Inc., the company that manages retail concessions at Reagan and Dulles airports. All other stores at Reagan Airport were closed.
Dulles Airport was the only airport that had many of its concessions operating yesterday.
Some guests at nearby hotels either were stranded in their rooms or had canceled reservations because they were unable to check in.
Some employees at the Doubletree Hotel at Crystal City near Reagan Airport had to stay there overnight because they, like the guests, also were stranded.
Despite the inconvenience, the guests had few complaints, said a Doubletree Hotel manager.
"They're very understanding," she said. "They say the airport is closed and we have to stay with you for another night."

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