- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Thousands of weary travelers faced a third day waiting to reach their destinations yesterday as US Airways struggled to recover from the ice and snow storm that paralyzed airports in the Northeast.

The airline was still trying to find seats for 100,000 passengers systemwide whose flights were grounded by Friday’s storm, spokesman Andrew Christie said.

Computer problems, airline staffing rules and other problems slowed US Airways’ attempts to clear the backlog. In addition, the airline’s flights yesterday were already nearly sold out, with 275,000 passengers booked, the airline said.

“Now we are in the process of repositioning our crew, our planes, and I am trying to re-accommodate roughly 100,000 customers who didn’t make their final destinations on Friday,” Mr. Christie said.

Passengers in Philadelphia reported waiting three hours or more to rebook a ticket or reach a reservation agent by phone during the weekend. Automated US Airways kiosks at Philadelphia International Airport were also down at times, they said.

US Airways operates two-thirds of the approximately 1,200 daily flights in Philadelphia.

Many of the travelers waiting for seats were stranded at the airport. Disposable blankets and pillows were handed out to several hundred people Saturday night, down from an estimated 1,000 or more people the night before, a spokeswoman said.

“Once the passengers were rebooked and going through security, they were moving them [through] pretty quickly,” airport spokeswoman Phyllis VanIstendal said yesterday.

There were also long lines at US Airways ticket counters in Pittsburgh yesterday because of cancellations and delays at other airports, said JoAnn Jenny, spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

“It’s just a busy time of year with spring break … and then with that storm, that really put a wrench in the works for a lot of folks,” Miss Jenny said.

The storm had stranded hundreds of passengers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, including hundreds stuck on planes Friday night as aircraft were unable to take off or find space at gates.

By yesterday, there were scattered delays of up to two hours at New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, with some delays of up five hours at Newark Liberty, said Alan Hicks, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

From Friday to Saturday morning, more than 3,600 commuter and mainline flights were canceled nationwide because of the effects of the storm. JetBlue, US Airways, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines all reported cancellations.

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