Hundreds stranded at Philadelphia International Airport

Aug. 10--An estimated 800 travelers were stranded overnight at Philadelphia International Airport because of thunderstorms here and around the country.

At 5 a.m., 32 flights were listed as canceled -- 23 of them arrivals and 9 departures -- according to spokeswoman Phyllis VanIstendal.

US Airways told the Associated Press it cancelled 530 flights across the country on Thursday, 133 of them out of Philadelphia, while bad weather elsewhere created such a backlog of planes awaiting takeoff, some passengers were stuck on the tarmac up to six hours.

With more storms in the forecast, and with Fridays a busy travel day, VanIstendal advised travelers to check the status of their flights by calling 1-800-745-4283 (1-800-PHL-GATE) or visiting www.phl.org.

She disputed a report that maintenance of a runway contributed significantly to the problem. Allowances were made because that was scheduled, she said. "There was no impact due to that."

As for passengers stuck in planes, "that's strictly an airline's call," she said. Gates were open, and vehicles were available to transport passengers back to the airport, she said.

The difficulties started yesterday afternoon when the Federal Aviation Administration issued a "ground stop," halting air traffic in and out of the airport, she said.

The airport hands out blankets, pillows, water, snacks and other "hospitality items" to stranded passengers, she said.

The number of stranded folks is estimated from how many items are distributed, she said.

Eight hundred is a lot inconvenienced people, even for a large Northeast airport like Philadelphia International, which often experiences problems with snow in winter, she said.

"It is a fairly large number," she said.

The airport handles handles 1,200 to 1,400 incoming and outgoing flights a day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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