Flight Delays Continue in Crash Aftermath
Air travelers in the U.S., especially on the West Coast, likely will be experiencing a few more days of delays as airlines cope with both inclement weather and the ripple effect of the Asiana Airlines crash this weekend at San Francisco International that killed two people and injured dozens.
As of Monday morning, San Francisco International reported "numerous delays and cancellations," with "long" security checkpoint lines and one runway out of four still down. Adding to the traffic snarl, the FAA instituted a ground delay at SFO Monday morning due to weather and low ceilings, leading to total average delays of 98 minutes. Airlines are likely to respond by consolidating and canceling flights, said airport duty manager Shannon Wilson, as well as canceling regional and shorthaul flights.
Two of the airport's biggest carriers are United and Southwest. United said it planned to resume its normal schedule at SFO on Monday. However, Southwest said flights to and from SFO may be delayed, diverted or canceled. The airline's website showed some early morning flights from San to New York, Austin and Chicago as delayed and canceled.
"The next few days will be a major hassle as airlines unwind diverted West Coast passengers and crews," said Ricky Seaney, CEO of Farecompare. "Many will experience multi-hour delays, with fairly normal operations likely returning by midweek," he said.
All major airlines announced they would allow free flight changes for passengers flying to, from, or through San Francisco over the weekend.
American Airlines is also offering fee waivers and has had added some extra flights, as well as rerouting some flights to San Jose, said airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely.
Efforts like those will offer some measure of relief to affected passengers.
Amy Chen, community manager for Linked In, was on hold for almost an hour Saturday after learning that her United Airlines flight home to San Francisco from Arizona was canceled. She ended up buying a ticket on Southwest Airlines that got her home via Oakland Airport at close to midnight on Sunday.
"At this point I'm even wondering if it is worth my time trying to contact United to see what to do about the last leg of my flight. But at least I'm home, safe, and ready for bed," she said.
The flight delays weren't only at SFO. At 5 p.m. on Sunday, officials as Los Angeles International airport reported that one-third of the total 103 departing and arriving flights between LAX and SFO had been canceled and that flights still scheduled to operate were experiencing "hours-long delays," not just in response to the Asiana crash, but because of thunderstorms in other parts of the country.
Headaches are likely to persist for some travelers into Monday morning.
Matt Shade, a geographic info system analyst from Columbus, Ohio, and his fiancé were on a plane getting ready to leave SFO after a wedding when the Asiana Airlines flight crashed on Saturday.
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"We were deplaned and spent an hour and a half waiting on the United Airlines 800 number to rebook," said Shade. They spent the night at the home of their newly married friends and were back at SFO on Sunday night for a redeye flight to O'Hare Airport, with a planned connection to Port Columbus International Airport early Monday morning.
"Hopefully back home by 8:15 a.m.," Shade said Sunday night. "Then: a shower, a nap and back to work in the afternoon."
—By Harriet Baskas, NBC News contributor