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Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 12/29/2010

Travel returning to normal

By Washington Post Wire and Staff Reports

Travel in the Northeast is gradually returning to normal, but airlines are still working through a huge backlog of passengers delayed by the snowstorm that barreled up the East Coast.

There are no reported flight delays at any of the major airports; Amtrak has resumed its normal schedule; and the intercity buses that run between New York and Washington are on the road again.

Officials at the New York area's three major airports said runways were all open Wednesday morning but it might take days for all the passengers who've been camping out in terminals to get flights out.

As many as 1.2 million airline customers may have been affected by almost 8,000 flight cancellations as the storm that hit three days ago closed major airports.

The U.S. Transportation Department is looking into details of the New York flight delays and will review other cases, Olivia Alair, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was being updated on the crisis.

LaHood, who helped push through a regulation allowing domestic carriers to be fined for tarmac delays of more than three hours, made no public comments. International airlines aren't covered by the rule.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey faulted some airlines after at least six international flights were stuck on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport with passengers aboard because they had no gates to use.

"It is an airline's responsibility to make sure before they leave their point of origin to make sure that they have a gate assignment," said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman. "These airlines did not. So they got to the airport and had no place to dock."

A spokesman for Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, whose passengers on Flight 888 from Vancouver sat on the tarmac at Kennedy airport for almost 12 hours yesterday, said flights were dispatched under the belief that gates would be available.

Upon arrival, "there were no gates available and our options were limited," said the spokesman, Gus Whitcomb. "Unfortunately, we ended up with passengers on airplanes for far too long before we were able to get them to the gates."

Other passengers complained about spending 90 minutes on hold before reaching reservations agents, or not being able to get an answer at all.

Some airlines, such as Delta, were using social media accounts to respond to passenger requests, tweeting apologies and instructing customers where to turn for help.

"Affected by winter weather? Here's everything you need to know to rebook your flight: http://bit.ly/ijVooS," @Delta tweeted.

"Winter weather is taking a toll on everyone this holiday season," @DeltaAssist tweeted. "Please be patient as we work to rebook affected customers."

What is your experience? Are you back home after being delayed for days? Do you still have relatives staying with you whose visit has been extended by the snowstorm? Post a comment below.

Resources:

Airlines
Check with your airline to see if your travel plans may be affected and what rules are in place if you do need to change your flight.

Airlines serving BWI
Airlines serving Dulles
Airlines serving Reagan National

Flight waiver information
AirTran Airways
American Airlines
Continental Airlines
Delta Airlines
JetBlue
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways
Virgin America

Buses
BoltBus
DC2NY
Greyhound
MegaBus
Vamoose
Washington Deluxe

By Washington Post Wire and Staff Reports  | December 29, 2010; 10:58 AM ET
Categories:  Airlines, Amtrak, Aviation  
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