Passengers share winter storm experiences

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Maria-Jose Subiria


While the airport had largely already returned to normal following the winter storm that rolled into Atlanta on Jan. 9, there were still some at Hartsfield-Jackson feeling its effects several days later.

On Friday, Jan. 14, Steve Walton, of Robbins, Ill., was lounging on the floor, near the third-floor balcony overlooking the atrium, reading a book entitled, "Saving Faith," by David Baldacci.

Walton said it was the third book he had read while stranded at Atlanta's airport.

"I am sleeping on the floor and reading books," said Walton.

He said he had been stranded at the world's busiest airport for four days, since Jan. 11, due to the winter storm that hit Georgia on the evening of Jan. 9, dumping snow and ice on roadways and making travel of just about any sort treacherous. He said he used a buddy pass from Delta Air Lines to fly to and from Florida. On his way back home, on Jan. 11, he had to board a connecting flight at Hartsfield-Jackson, he explained.

He was still at the airport, on Jan. 14.

Walton said he was hopeful he would be allowed to board a Delta flight later on Friday. If not, he said, he had another plan.

"My daughter said [she] will rent a car and come down," he said.

Passenger Sojourner Ballard, of Durham, N.C., was not stranded at the airport, but had had to adjust her plans because of the storm.

She said she was scheduled to board an AirTran Airways flight on Jan. 11, but was advised by the airline a day before that her flight would be canceled.

"I was all packed," she said.

Ballard said she was glad she was advised beforehand.

"I was one of the lucky ones," she said.

She said she is a student at Spelman College, in Atlanta.

"Luckily my college pushed back classes," said Ballard.

Ballard added that AirTran Airways allowed her to change her reservation without penalty.

Christen Quezada, of Doraville, Ga., was playing with her infant son, Karlo Shakes, while waiting for someone to pick her up at the South Terminal of the airport.

Quezada said that on Jan. 10, she was trying to get to Atlanta from Los Angeles, Calif., on an AirTran Airways standby ticket, because she was scheduled back to work later in the week.

"I had to go to LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] and find out I was unable to fly," said Quezada.

Quezada said she depends on her job and was unable to arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson until Jan. 14.

She said she bought a Delta flight ticket.

"I couldn't wait," she said. "I had to get back to work."

Dominique Hall said that though she isn't a passenger at Hartsfield-Jackson, the winter storm also impacted her.

Hall said she has been a barista and cashier at a Starbucks, on Concourse T at the airport, for nine years.

Hall said she missed two days of work because she couldn't leave her driveway, which was covered with snow and ice.

She said when she returned to work on Thursday, Jan. 13, business was slow.

"I think passengers were more focused on getting out than getting a cup of coffee," said Hall.

She said business picked up again the following day.

The Rev. Chester Cook, executive director and senior chaplain of the Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy, said that on Tuesday, Jan. 11, the airport was swarmed with passengers that stayed overnight.

"Some people got hotel rooms ... the chapel was full," said Cook. "About 15 people in the chapel from different places."

He said the issues passengers had weren't major problems, because airlines assisted passengers in rescheduling their reservations.

Cook said the chapel advised stranded families with children that it was open as a place for sanctuary.

"A lot of people started to get out Wednesday [Jan. 12] afternoon," he said.

Albert Snedeker, a spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson, said the airport provided travelers with blankets and kits which contained toiletry items.

Snedeker said that during the winter weather event, the airport continued to keep ice off various areas, including runways, taxiways, emergency routes, roadways and parking lots.

John Kennedy, another spokesman for the airport, said the airport was functioning well on Jan. 12, with operations returning to normal. Delta officials said operations were also getting back to normal for the airline on Jan. 12.

The airline reportedly canceled more than 1,700 flights early in the week, due to the winter weather conditions.

AirTran Airways had 240 cancellations of arriving and departing flights, on Jan. 11, at Atlanta's airport, according to Quinnie Jenkins, spokeswoman for AirTran Airways.