Amid Snow Woes, Holiday Spirit At The Airport

This weekend's massive snowstorm stopped traffic on the highways, on the rails, and in the air. NPR's Allison Keyes stopped in at Washington's Reagan National Airport just a few minutes after it reopened and found a lot of lines leavened with a bit of holiday spirit.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Now, outside the Capitol, Washington and the entire Northeast are digging out from that massive weekend storm. The storm put the brakes on travel plans throughout the region, leaving thousands of travelers stranded.

NPR's Allison Keyes stopped by Reagan National Airport here in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, just a few hours after flights resumed.

ALLISON KEYES: More than 16 inches of snow fell here yesterday, the most ever recorded on a single day. And clearly, the airport was still reeling. Lines of anxious passengers snaked around the few curbside check-ins operating, and people were hopping out of a very few cabs with horror stories of the still-only-partially-open public transportation system.

Despite the drama, Sara Gregory(ph) was watching the chaos with a smile.

Ms. SARA GREGORY: I'm going home for Christmas. So I couldn't be happier about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Unlike many here, she had good news about her flight.

Ms. GREGORY: I'm about to leave, and it's supposed to be on time. And I have a connection, but it's supposed to be on time, too.

KEYES: But passengers like Baylor University student Aaron Fobes(ph) were so not having fun as they stood shivering in the outdoor check-in line.

Mr. AARON FOBES: We're actually scheduled for today, but they said the airport was closed until 12. And then our flight was leaving like, right after 12. And some of our group got to go in, but the rest of us are just sitting out here, just waiting.

KEYES: Similar scenes of woe were happening at airports across the storm's path in the Northeast for much of the weekend. More than 800 flights were canceled in the New York-New Jersey area, although the airports there never closed.

Boston's Logan Airport remained open despite the battering from the snow, though there had been numerous delays and cancellations. At Reagan National, spokeswoman Courtney Mickalonis had advice for stranded travelers.

Ms. COURTNEY MICKALONIS (Spokeswoman, Ronald Reagan National Airport): A lot of people need to rebook flights. The best thing they can do is really, to go online with their airline's Web site and try to rebook online before they head out to the airport.

KEYES: Even Amtrak suffered. There were delays and cancellations along its Northeast corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston, and along its cross-country tracks as well. The train that runs between New Orleans and New York was 13 hours late. But today, trains were running pretty much on time, a fact not lost on the folks at Reagan National.

Unidentified Woman: Once again, Amtrak has plenty of seats available.

KEYES: Yep, that announcement was at the airport, and it did not amuse anyone standing in the long lines winding the entire length of the terminal, especially not Janet Massingale(ph) and her family. They were trying to fly into Miami for a cruise.

Ms. JANET MASSINGALE: Nobody knows what to do. Nobody knows where to go. There's no organization whatsoever. And it's been a long day, and we're tired, and we want to make our cruise ship.

KEYES: But the people who seemed to be making the most of the enforced wait were those who kept their senses of humor, like Aaron Fobes, even if they were cold and hungry.

Mr. FOBES: We have no provisions. We're just rushing it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: It seems like travelers should remember patience is a virtue. They're going to need it.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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