Flights expected to resume normal schedule at SRQ

cschelle@bradenton.comJanuary 8, 2014 

MANATEE -- While the polar vortex brought a brief chill to Manatee County, flights stuck in a schedule vortex at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport should resume normal schedules Wednesday.

Flights to New York's two major airports, La Guardia and John F. Kennedy International, were canceled Tuesday afternoon along with flights to Chicago's O'Hare and Boston Logan Interna

tional.

A sign of normalcy showed on the schedule board when JetBlue's La Guardia flight showed as on time at 5:23 p.m.

"It appears that the worst is over," said Frederick "Rick" Piccolo, chief executive officer and president of SRQ airport. "This one's been pretty bad. We've seen a lot more cancellations this week than we've seen for a few years. It's been significant through the whole system."

JetBlue temporarily halted all flights to Boston and New York through Tuesday morning because of a combination of crew rest requirements and a backlog of flights delayed and canceled over the weekend. New rules in effect Saturday require more rest for flight crews where pilots have to have eight uninterrupted hours of rest and 10 hours rest total between shifts, plus 30 consecutive hours of rest each week.

Snowbirds looking to escape LaGaurdia to Sarasota finally made it on a JetBlue flight around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday after a 45-minute delay.

United also reduced its schedule because of the freezing weather at O'Hare, the airline tweeted. It is waiving change fees and fare differences for flights affected Jan. 2 through Wednesday for travel expected to resume by Saturday. JetBlue is also offering credit for a one-way or round-trip flight to customers who had multiple cancellations since Friday.

Sometimes a long list of delays and cancellations will reset the airline system, prompting suspension of flights, Piccolo said.

Flights to Charlotte were the only ones unaffected by delays Tuesday at SRQ. An evening flight on Air Canada to Toronto was initially delayed two hours and an Atlanta flight on Delta was also delayed as flights delayed elsewhere tried to pass through the nation's busiest airport.

The scene at SRQ was unlike ones shown on national news featuring people sleeping anywhere they could find space. SRQ is an origination and destination airport instead of a hub where people can be stuck in transit, and boarding passes weren't issued for most passengers on canceled flights, Piccolo said.

"We're seeing some people come to the airport because they're trying to get their schedule fixed, but by and large, we're not seeing large crowds here," he said.

The Tampa Airport experienced much more traffic with 155 flight delays Tuesday afternoon and 48 canceled flights.

In Sarasota, some travelers opted for the ticket counter at SRQ with its short lines rather than waiting on hold to rebook flights or battle with the airlines' websites, he added.

Piccolo encouraged travelers to check with the airlines to see what options they have and for updated flight information.

JetBlue travel advice and options for passengers can be found at at blog.jetblue.com.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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