- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

NEW YORK — JetBlue called off almost a quarter of its flights for today as it struggled to recover from the snowstorm that saw some travelers sitting on grounded planes for hours.

The news sent passengers scrambling to make a change of plans.

The airline had scheduled 600 flights for Presidents Day, more than the 550 to 575 flights it has on a normal Monday, but 139 of them were canceled, JetBlue announced late Saturday.

The latest cancellations were needed to make sure all flight crews had gotten the legally mandated amount of rest before returning to service, JetBlue Airways Corp. spokesman Sebastian White said yesterday.

“Canceling one more day’s operations will really help reset our airline,” Mr. White said.

All JetBlue flights were canceled in and out of 11 airports: Richmond; Pittsburgh; Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin and Houston, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; Portland, Maine; and Bermuda.

The cancellations followed hundreds of other canceled and delayed flights since Wednesday, when the snow and ice storm that had plowed across the Midwest struck the Northeast, grounding the company’s airliners at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Maria Arbelo and two companions had been ticketed for a JetBlue flight to Houston on Saturday morning to get on a cruise. That flight was canceled, as were all flights to Houston yesterday. The airline put the three women in a hotel for the night and booked them on an evening flight to Cancun. From there, they would have to find a driver to take them on a four-hour trip to meet their ship.

“Oh my God, horrendous,” Ms. Arbelo, a teacher from New Haven, Conn., said of her experience. “It’s been a terrible ordeal, I tell you. We’ve been from line to line.”

Ms. Arbelo said JetBlue staffers had been nice but seemed confused about what to tell passengers.

“I laugh about it because there’s nothing we can do,” she said.

Mr. White said JetBlue has been using several methods in efforts to reduce the backlog of passengers stalled by the storm, including charter flights, adding flights in certain regions, rebooking passengers who had some travel flexibility to later dates, and booking seats on other airlines.

He said the airline attempted to warn passengers of the latest cancellations by telephone and e-mail.

The disruptions also meant JetBlue faced mountains of luggage checked by would-be travelers.Some passengers complained that after their flights were canceled no one could find their bags.

Mr. White said the airline had teams out in the New York City area delivering luggage to customers yesterday.

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