Fog Has Wayne Flight Schedule in a Gray Area

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Travelers planning to catch a morning plane at John Wayne Airport may find themselves with some unexpected time on their hands in the next few days.

A thick blanket of fog forced flights to be delayed for more than two hours Thursday, causing some frustrated passengers to miss connecting flights and appointments. And forecasters said it's only expected to get worse, especially by Saturday.

"There's really nothing you can do about it," said Joe Fowler, air traffic manager. "It probably happens about a dozen times a year. From an air traffic control standpoint, it didn't cause any problems, but it's a big deal for passengers who are trying to get somewhere."

In all, 14 departing flights and five arriving flights were delayed until after airport operations resumed at 9:15 a.m., Fowler said.

While some passengers had to scramble to make new travel arrangements, others simply took the delay in stride.

"I'm used to it," said Joe Pearson, a traveling salesman whose flight to Fort Worth was delayed by an hour. "You usually expect these kinds of things in Chicago, not on the West Coast. But I travel all the time and there is nothing you can do about it. Weather is weather."

Pearson, 31, said he passed the extra time by reading a newspaper and making some business calls.

"When you're on the road, it's good to use every extra second that you can," he said. "As long as the plane gets me home, it's no skin off my nose."

Gilbert Green, 64, sat in an airport lounge sipping on a cup of coffee waiting for his daughter to board the same flight to Fort Worth.

"As long as the flight takes off soon, she'll be able to make her connecting flight to Florida," Green said with concern. "I'm not surprised they couldn't take off. It was so foggy this morning. We couldn't see a thing on the freeway when we were driving over here."

Although their morning flight from San Jose was delayed by half an hour, John Rymer and his family remained in good spirits.

"We're thrown off a bit but this is vacation and we're going to Disneyland," Rymer said. "My son was getting anxious because he is excited to see Mickey Mouse. He screamed when we finally landed."

While the fog may have caused headaches for some travelers, it meant socko business for shops and restaurants inside the airport terminal.

"We had one of the longest lines I've ever seen," said Aaron Briones, manager of McDonald's. "Some people were pretty angry and took it out on us, but we tried to serve them with a happy attitude. It was a real jump in sales for us. We sold a lot of Egg McMuffins."

Elsa Durham, a cashier at M.B.E. Gifts and News, said she was "swamped" during the delay.

"That was quite a fog," Durham said. "I guess people needed something to do, so they bought a lot of books, magazines and newspapers. I was hoping we'd sell some T-shirts too, but I guess people weren't in the mood."

The heavy morning fog that has been plaguing coastal cities in Orange County is expected to hang around through the weekend, said Steve Burback, a meteorologist for WeatherData, which provides weather forecasts for The Times.

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