SALT LAKE CITY — Travelers stuck in airports around the nation may have missed the rain from Hurricane Sandy, but they didn't escape its wrath.
Salt Lake City International Airport was quiet Monday with few travelers and little wait to go through security, partly because most people traveling to the East Coast were notified of flight cancellations in advance.
"The airlines started canceling flights early (Sunday), notifying people that they would not be flying," said airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann. "We've had cancellations to the East Coast from yesterday and today and it's undetermined when they'll start up again."
The scene is playing out around the country as Hurricane Sandy grounded thousands of flights, stranding passengers from Hong Kong to Europe and throughout the United States. The storm could interrupt travel both domestically and internationally for at least two days.
According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, nearly 10,000 flights had been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm. American Airlines, United and Delta canceled all flights into and out of three area airports in New York, the nation’s busiest airspace.
The cancellations have already surpassed those from last year’s damaging Hurricane Irene. About one-quarter of all U.S. flights travel in or out of New York airports each day. So cancellations there can dramatically impact travel in other cities.
Gann said the Salt Lake airport was not experiencing the stranded passengers that sit in other airports. But there were those suffering impacts and working to find new routes to their destinations.
"We checked last night to see if it was still on and Albany was still open, and Manchester, New Hampshire, which is where out destination was," Bonnie Champagne said Monday morning.
Bonnie and her husband, David Champagne, left Idaho Falls at 2:30 a.m. on Monday only to get to the airport and discover they weren't going anywhere.
"We got in about 6:30 this morning only to find out they had canceled the flight going from Chicago to Manchester," David Champagne said.
"So they told us not to leave here, well if we did we'd be a long time getting out of Chicago," Bonnie Champagne said. "So they booked us again on a flight for tomorrow, pending, and there were only four seats available and we took two of them."
The Champagnes were offered a hotel voucher that would allow them to stay overnight for half price. Others, like Mathew Owens who lives in New York, aren't waiting for the storm to end.
"I was supposed to fly back this morning but it didn't quite work out that way," Owens said. "I'm just not relying on knowing right now, I'm just going to go somewhere where I can wait it out and then whenever it clears up, schedule a trip back."
Owens said he can work from almost anywhere and he doesn't want to have to wait days while trying to reschedule a canceled flight.
They don't have anything open right now," Michael Mitchell, who was trying to go home to Virginia Beach, said. "They still have flights scheduled but they're not sure if Norfolk is going to open tomorrow or Wednesday."
Mitchell arrived at the airport six hours early to get a flight to Chicago on Monday but he wasn't sure when he would be able to make the final connection to Virginia Beach.
"Right now, because of the storm, they don't really have a plan yet. Hopefully by 9 tonight when I get to Chicago they'll have more of a plan," he said Monday. "You can't really get mad at (the airlines), I mean it's not their fault."
Delta Air Lines said in a prepared statement Monday that more than 2,500 flights have been canceled because of Hurricane Sandy from Sunday night through Tuesday. Delta also said that limited flying was expected to resume Tuesday evening at Delta's hubs in LaGuardia and JFK with full flying targeted for Wednesday, subject to conditions.
Contributing: Associated Press