About 2,000 stranded in Reno airport
November 28, 2004
RENO – Hundreds of stranded passengers awaited flights out of Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Sunday, a day after a snowstorm and an equipment malfunction forced dozens of flights to be canceled or delayed.
About 2,000 people were unable to book flights out of the city until today or Tuesday because most flights were already full on the airport’s busiest day of the year, spokesman Brian Kulpin said.
The airport traditionally handles 11,000 passengers on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time of the year,” Kulpin said. “You’re talking about people who have to get back to work and people who have to get back to family.”
At nearby Lake Tahoe and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada, a winter storm system that moved in from the Northwest dumped up to 18 inches of snow, delaying thousands of Thanksgiving holiday motorists heading over mountain passes.
At the airport, 41 departures were canceled or delayed during a seven-hour period Saturday after a malfunction in the airport’s instrument landing system. Twenty-eight arrivals also were affected.
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The Federal Aviation Administration repaired the equipment after the storm left up to 6 inches of snow in Reno. Pilots are guided by the system when visibility is poor.
More than 4,000 passengers in all were affected by the equipment breakdown, airport officials said.
To reach their destination, other stranded passengers decided to drive rental cars to airports in Las Vegas or San Francisco.
Others were able to catch flights by standby from Reno after spending a long day at the airport.
Swapna Das, 29, of Houston, said she and her family left their Lake Tahoe hotel around 6:30 a.m. and weren’t able to board a plane until about 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
“The flight was a morning flight, so the whole day we were in the airport,” Das told a Reno newspaper as one of her two sons slept on the airport floor.
Passengers will not be reimbursed for lodging costs caused by canceled flights, Kulpin said.
“Some passengers obviously took it hard and were upset. Others took it in stride,” Kulpin said. “There are worse places to be stuck than Reno. There are hotels and gaming and skiing and entertainment.”
Airport officials said they were livid because it was the second time this month the instrument landing system malfunctioned during a storm. The FAA owns and operates the system.