Updated: 11:02 PM EST
Lost Bags, Canceled Flights Irk Travelers
Delta Air Lines Subsidiary Comair Cancels 1,100 Due to Computer Glitch
By JOHN NOLAN, AP
HEBRON, Ky. (Dec. 25) - Days of bad weather, a computer malfunction and sick airline employees put tens of thousands of travelers in holiday limbo Saturday, with Comair canceling all its flights and US Airways trying to reconnect thousands of pieces of luggage with their owners.
Throngs of waiting passengers
milled about at Comair's hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
Cynthia Mayer, waiting to return home to Hilton Head, S.C., on a Comair flight from Cincinnati, lost both her flight and her luggage, and said her earliest flight home would be late Monday night.
"They offered me a toothbrush - a kit with a toothpaste and a toothbrush," Mayer said, chuckling.
Comair, a Delta Air Lines subsidiary, canceled all its 1,100 flights on Saturday because computer problems knocked out its system that manages flight assignments, company spokesman Nick Miller said. The cancellations affected 30,000 travelers in 118 cities, he said.
Miller said the company was trying to put travelers on Delta flights. Crews were working to see how many flights Comair could handle Sunday, but nothing was definite.
"It's been a very busy holiday season and we deeply regret this problem for our customers," Miller said.
Miller said the problem was
triggered in part by flights canceled Thursday and Friday because of a winter
storm that hit
"There was a cumulative effect with the canceled flights and trying to get crews assigned that caused the system to be overwhelmed," he said. "It just stopped operating."
Bleary-eyed John Price
watched Saturday as airport workers sorted piles of unclaimed bags - none of
them the suitcase full of presents for relatives he had checked on his
"I can't show up empty-handed. That just doesn't cut it," he said.
The airline blamed the canceled flights and baggage backups on severe weather Thursday compunded by record numbers of employees calling in sick, according to a company statement.
Systemwide, the airline canceled 80 flights Saturday and 100 flights Friday, airline spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said.
Spokespeople for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents US Airways baggage handlers, and the Association of Flight Attendants said they had not organized any job actions.
"There is no union
action. It's poor management planning, that's my
opinion. ... We have sick calls every single year around the holiday,"
said Teddy Xidas, president of Association of Flight
Attendants Local 40 in
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has directed senior officials to talk with US Airways management about problems at the airport, Transportation Department spokesman Robert Johnson said Saturday.
"They ruined everybody's Christmas," said Malave, who lives near Tom's River, N.J.
She was offered a $50 stipend to buy clothes, but on Christmas Day, "good luck trying to find something open," she said. "I have no clothes. Nothing."
Extra flights carrying
nothing but luggage were scheduled to fly from
Struggling US Airways, bankrupt for the second time in two years, says it needs to drastically cut labor costs if it is to survive beyond mid-January, when its interim financing arrangement with the federal government's Air Transportation Stabilization Board is set to expire.
US Airways reservations and gate agents approved a new contract Thursday that cut pay by 13 percent. The airline still needs deals from its flight attendants and its machinists' union.
Press writers Jennifer Kay in
12-25-04 20:47 EST