Storm Freezes Up Nation's Airline System : Travel: Airports forced to shut down by snow hurt service as far as Los Angeles due to stranded equipment and crews.

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The weekend's storm hurt the nation's entire air system, not just those airports forced to shut down, airline officials said Sunday.

Equipment and crews were stranded in airports throughout the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and South, hurting service in airports as far away as Los Angeles.

While most major airports reopened Sunday, airlines were slow to reschedule flights, disrupting travel plans for thousands of people, not only in the East but across the country.

At Los Angeles International Airport, where scores of flights were canceled or delayed on Saturday, the reopening of airports in the East was a mixed blessing for weary passengers, some of whom had been stranded for two days.

Most flights from Los Angeles to Boston, New York City and Washington were sold out Sunday because of the earlier cancellations, and those passengers able to get seats faced delays of up to 1 1/2 hours.

"If you can't get through to your airline to confirm your flight, get to the airport at least two hours before it's scheduled to leave," advised Bill Carey, a spokesman for LAX. "It's sort of crazy here right now."

"Any storm of this magnitude would have a significant effect on all airports across the country," said American Airlines spokesman Al Becker.

Becker said that at the height of the storm, 23 airports in the nation's eastern and northern regions were closed.

Traffic at Denver's Stapleton International Airport could be affected until Tuesday morning, said Greg Baker, airport spokesman.

"Basically there's a shortage of aircraft here because they're all grounded on the East Coast," Baker said.

In Pittsburgh, Pa., USAir, which had its hub at Pittsburgh International Airport closed for much of the weekend, suspended most operations along the Eastern Seaboard on Sunday, according to spokesman John Bronson. No USAir flights were expected to depart from airports in Philadelphia or New York City, nor from all of New England, Bronson said.

But the airline expected to resume flights sometime Sunday at the airports in Pittsburgh, the Washington area and Charlotte, N.C., Bronson said.

Other examples of the storm's domino effect:

-- Departures and arrivals at Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway airports were running about two hours late Sunday afternoon, mainly on flights to the East Coast.

-- At Miami International Airport, thousands of travelers hoping to fly north found themselves captive participants in one of the nation's largest slumber parties. As northern airports slowly reopened, and with the usual crush of travelers due today, some who had already spent three nights on the airport floor said they had no confirmed flight reservation until Wednesday.

-- Officials at Federal Express, an overnight package-delivery service, were scrambling over the weekend to reroute their planes to airports that weren't affected by the storm. Most packages that were shipped Friday and Saturday will be available for delivery on Monday, Federal Express spokesman Armand Schneider said.

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