published Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Air travel woes: Chattanooga fliers scramble amid cancellations

A worker fuels a plane Wednesday at the Wilson Air facility at the Chattanooga Airport. The airport suffered many weather-related flight cancellations Wednesday.
A worker fuels a plane Wednesday at the Wilson Air facility at the Chattanooga Airport. The airport suffered many weather-related flight cancellations Wednesday.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Ross Lehmann said Wednesday that plans for a one-day stopover in Chattanooga turned out to last closer to an entire work week — a hangover from the snowstorm that jammed up air travel to Atlanta.

"I was delayed three times and now they've canceled," he said about his Delta Connection service as he sat inside the Chattanooga Airport passenger terminal.

Lehmann, of Houston, was one a many air travelers at Chattanooga Airport whose plans melted away after Delta canceled its slate of flights from Lovell Field to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

All 16 of Delta's departures to Atlanta were scratched the last couple of days as workers at Hartsfield-Jackson scrambled to get air traffic moving close to normal again through the world's busiest airport. Delta typically carries more than half of all fliers out of Chattanooga.

More than 2,110 U.S. flights had been canceled as of Wednesday afternoon, said USA Today, citing flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. That follows about 3,260 flight cancellations Tuesday and another 1,030 on Monday, putting the tally at about 6,400 flights since Monday, according to FlightAware.

In Atlanta, about 40 percent of the airport's flight schedule Wednesday -- more than 473 departures and more than 526 arrivals -- had been canceled by mid-afternoon. Many of Wednesday morning's cancellations resulted from planes or crew being out of position from Tuesday's disruption.

Stokes Smith of Chattanooga was turned back at the Delta counter in Chattanooga on Wednesday.

"Atlanta couldn't receive the flight," he said.

Smith, a salesman, had planned a business trip to Toronto that he now won't make until March. He said he was able to connect with his business contact via the Internet, and he noted that airline personnel in Chattanooga had been "trying their best."

Florence Bush of Denver was scheduled to fly US Airways from Chattanooga via Charlotte, N.C., to her Colorado home on Wednesday. She had her fingers crossed that her flight, slated to be delayed for about an hour, wouldn't be canceled.

"They called me and said it was going to be 40 minutes late," Bush said, adding she was already at the Chattanooga Airport when she took the phone alert because she had gotten to the terminal early.

Lehmann said he was supposed to leave Chattanooga for Houston on Monday night, but that flight was canceled.

Then Tuesday, he said, he couldn't make it to the airport from his hotel due to the snow -- though it didn't matter anyway because all the Delta flights never lifted off from Chattanooga.

Wednesday, Lehmann said, in the wake of a third day of cancelations, he was hoping to find space on an American Eagle flight, but that wasn't a sure thing.

"Odds are, it will be tomorrow," he said.

Meanwhile, general aviation operator Wilson Air was operating as usual on the opposite side of the runway from the Chattanooga passenger terminal.

Wilson employee Janelle Schmidt said the snowstorm had not impacted general aviation business at the airport.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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