Sandy creates a super snarl for airlines, Amtrak

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - The airlines have learned their lesson.

They started canceling flights even before Sandy arrived to avoid possible fines for stranding passengers. Jam-packed terminals with folks sleeping on the floor are becoming a relic of the past.

East Coast airports, including Washington's Reagan National, were largely deserted for a second straight day as airlines cancelled 7,000 Tuesday flights.

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There were a few hopeful travelers. Among them were Colby Kuhns and his new bride, who were anxious to start their honeymoon.

Colby Kuhns was hopeful the storm wouldn't ruin his honeymoon plans.
Colby Kuhns was hopeful the storm wouldn't ruin his honeymoon plans.
CBS News

"We came in this morning and it was out of one of those Apocalypse movies where everybody's gone," Kuhns said.

This is one of the largest disruptions of the U.S. aviation system since 9/11. While only New York area airports remain closed, major delays and cancellations are rippling across the country.

Since Sunday, airlines have cancelled more than 16,000 flights, and 2,116 more have already been scrubbed for Wednesday. Every major carrier is taking a hit.

United Airlines has cancelled more than 2,100 flights; American Airlines more than 1,800 flights; Southwest/AirTran just about 1,800 flights; and US Airways has cancelled more than 1,500 flights.

Industry analysts say airlines stand to lose more than $200 million to Sandy.

Rod Johnson, waiting at Reagan International Airport, said his flight was cancelled four different times.
Rod Johnson, waiting at Reagan International Airport, said his flight was cancelled four different times.
CBS News

And frustrated travelers, like Rod Johnson, are running short on patience.

"So far today I've had my flight cancelled four different times," Johnson said.

Rail travel through the storm zone is not much better. While Washington's Metro service limped back to life today. Amtrak's northeast corridor, between D.C. and Boston, remains shut down.

Some Amtrak service may resume Wednesday. But spokesman Steve Kulm says track inspections must be done.

"We have over 300 miles that we own and operate, that we need to go out and inspect to make sure everything is safe and ready to go for the operation -- when we are ready to get back to operations," Kulm said.

It will take longer for air service to get back to normal -- it could be the end of the week. It will take so long because there are so many planes and flight crews out of position. The whole system essentially has to be reset. Even after a snowstorm in New York, can take two days to unwind the travel logjam. This is, of course, is much, much worse.

  • Bob Orr

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