- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

DENVER (AP) — After missing a flight two days earlier because she spent three hours in the airport’s security checkpoint, Leigh Bingham was thrilled to make it to the gate on Christmas Eve with plenty of time to spare.

“That was the longest line I’ve ever seen, including for roller coasters,” she said, referring to Friday, when she couldn’t get to Albuquerque, N.M., to see her family.

On Sunday, the snaking line was gone. Hundreds of packed flights left the airport carrying passengers who had been stranded when a blizzard shut down the runways last week, wrecking the itineraries of holiday travelers across the country who raced to get home.

Officials said they did not have a count of how many passengers remained at the airport on Christmas morning. They had planned to distribute cots, but by early evening, they did not know whether anyone stranded by the two-day snowstorm was still there.

“I can’t imagine a lot of folks are still at the airport,” airport spokesman Steve Snyder said, adding that the roads to the airport were open, allowing people to get to hotels, and that some travelers changed or canceled their plans.

The airport’s two biggest carriers, United and Frontier airlines, said they flew a full schedule Saturday and Sunday, including a dozen extra flights by United.

Neither the airlines nor the airport had a passenger count. Last Christmas Eve, an estimated 129,000 passengers passed through the airport, the nation’s fifth-busiest, but officials say patterns change each year.

United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the airline held some flights until every seat was filled and even used planes with extra seats.

She said many stranded passengers flying standby got seats but did not know how many.

Crews removed about 4.4 million cubic yards of snow, Mr. Snyder said.

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