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Waiting Game Persists at Denver Airport

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Waiting Game Persists at Denver Airport

U.S.

Waiting Game Persists at Denver Airport

Waiting Game Persists at Denver Airport

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Travelers wait in line to check in beyond a sign at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Airlines were forced to play catch-up on this busiest travel day of the holiday season after a snow storm closed the Denver airport and fog and rain in Chicago backed up flights over the past two days. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Travelers wait in line to check in beyond a sign at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Airlines were forced to play catch-up on this busiest travel day of the holiday season after a snow storm closed the Denver airport and fog and rain in Chicago backed up flights over the past two days.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

A departure board shows multiple cancelled announcements at Denver International Airport Friday. Thomas Cooper/Getty Images hide caption

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Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

A departure board shows multiple cancelled announcements at Denver International Airport Friday.

Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

A passenger jet taking off was a welcome site for weary eyes in Denver Friday afternoon. The airport closed after Wednesday's blizzard forced airlines to cancel all flights through Denver. Thousands of holiday travelers were stranded and many spent the night at the airport.

A Frontier Airlines flight headed for Atlanta was the first to take off, just after noon. The 132 lucky passengers left a sea of less fortunate travelers back at the ticket counters.

Some put up with three-hour-long lines just for the chance of getting one of the few stand-by seats available.

Jonathan Ward of Baton Rouge, La., had made Denver International Airport his home for two days.

He hoped for a flight Saturday to Boise, Idaho, through San Francisco. That would mean another day of waiting, without access to his luggage, whereever that might be.

The terminal was full of desperate people the last couple of days, Ward said.

"The most depressing thing we've seen is an old couple sleeping on the tables in the Burger King waiting area," he said. "They didn't have a cot or blank or pillows or anything."

Keith Ure, a musician who plays at the airport during the holidays, said in 20 years, he has never seen lines like this.

"And then I'm hearing people as they walk by," he said. "I can hear them talking on their cell phones: 'Oh honey, it's looking good. I'm number 12 on stand-by.'"

The idea of someone being happy about being "number 12 on standby" is, Ure noted, "frightening."

Ashlee Tabolt and her husband Brian were skiing in Vail to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Now they're trying to get back home to Pittsburgh.

"We can't get a flight out until Christmas," Ashlee Talbot said. "So right now we're trying to find anything around Pittsburgh — like Buffalo, Cleveland, Washington, D.C. We're willing to get to anything on the East Coast and just drive home."

As his wife talked, Brian Tabolt announced: "We just got one for the 24th."

"Oh, that's good... That's good," Ashlee Talbot replied. "Maybe we'll be home for Christmas!"

The airlines say it will take days to get all the stranded travelers here either back home or to their destinations.