Cold Takes a Bite Out of D/FW Flights

D/FW AIRPORT -- Megan Zollinger and her family didn't want to take a chance on missing their flight because of icy roads. So the Justin family arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday -- 15 1/2 hours early.

"We planned ahead," said Zollinger, who was hanging out Wednesday afternoon with her daughter in the Terminal D lobby. Zollinger and her daughter and husband planned to stay the night at the Grand Hyatt DFW.

The 298-room hotel was full Wednesday night, mostly with groups staying for conventions, said George Vizer, the hotel's general manager.

About 50 rooms were booked by stranded travelers heading out today, he said.

But not everyone was content to sit and wait it out.

Alfonso Gentile arrived at D/FW from London on Wednesday afternoon and was surprised to learn that his connecting flight on American Airlines to San Antonio was canceled. He and a group of 21 others were trying to get to the Alamo City for a conference on breast cancer. So he and his colleagues chartered a bus to take them down Interstate 35 Wednesday night.

By Wednesday evening, D/FW Airport had about 250 flights canceled because of the bad weather.

About 210 were American Airlines flights, said Tim Wagner, an airline spokesman. American Eagle, the airline's regional affiliate, canceled 38 flights. That's close to half the airline's 500 scheduled flights. American re-routed many connecting passengers through Chicago instead of D/FW, he said. That will free space on remaining flights for local travelers, he said. "Hopefully, that way we'll get most -- if not all -- of our customers where they're going," he said.

D/FW began the day expecting that about 40 percent of its departures could be canceled, said Ken Capps, an airport spokesman.

"The weather is not great out here, but we've experienced a lot worse in the last two or three years," Capps said. "We continue to operate. We just might be a little slower today." The airport planned to stay open all day, and so did its concessionaires.

Gina Puente-Brancato, president of Puente Concessions, rented about nine rooms at an Irving hotel for her employees so they wouldn't have to drive home. She also wanted them nearby so her 15 concessions could open on time, beginning around 5 a.m. today.

American began ramping up its de-icing operations Tuesday night and continued extensive de-icing operations throughout Wednesday, Wagner said.

De-icing throughout the rest of the airport began at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Capps said.

D/FW also activated its Concessions Plan on Wednesday, calling for many of its 237 concessionaires to stay open beyond their regular hours as needed.

"It's a common-sense thing, really," said David Magana, an airport spokesman. "The plan is really so folks can get something to eat or drink while they're stranded here."

D/FW Airport averages about 150,000 passengers and about 1,000 departures daily.

At Dallas Love Field, Southwest Airlines reported no cancellations by Wednesday evening, said spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger. The airline operates 112 daily flights from Love.

"We're continuing to watch the weather," she said. "We're doing a lot of de-icing."


Fort Worth Star Telegram

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