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Amid Sleepovers, Airports in the Southland Get Back on Schedule

Stranded travelers head home after carriers recover from previous day's computer glitch.

September 16, 2004|Richard Fausset and Zeke Minaya | Times Staff Writers

Southern California's airline service was back to normal Wednesday morning, although ticket agents were dealing with more irritated and bleary-eyed passengers than usual.

At Los Angeles International Airport, a few stranded travelers were still sleeping in the terminals, a day after a computer problem shut down radio transmissions for more than three hours, causing hundreds of flights to be rerouted or canceled.

Wade Broderick, 23, of New Zealand was draped groggily over seats as the morning bustle took place around him. He had been there most of the night, after a guard wouldn't allow him to stretch out on the tile floor.

"He said he didn't want me to get cold, so he was kind of looking out for me in a way," said Broderick, who spent the rest of the evening in a chair, listening to CDs.

Broderick was trying to get home after missing his connection from an East Coast flight Tuesday night.

With the hotels around LAX booked solid, Broderick decided to camp out.

Other passengers caught up in the mess reflected on the nervous moments Tuesday afternoon when they learned their travel plans were going to suddenly change.

Marilyn Armondo, 70, of Culver City and Reva Rose, 62, of West Los Angeles were returning from an annual class reunion of their theater school in Chicago when their flight was diverted to Phoenix.

As soon as they heard about the new destination, the women "wanted more information," Rose said.

"Everything that was going through our minds was that there was a terrorist attack," she said. "The pilot said the radio was out at LAX, and all we thought was how LAX must not have paid their bill."

Amid the mad scramble of passengers trying to reschedule flights, nab a rental or book the last hotel room Tuesday night, airlines also improvised.

At Bob Hope Airport in Burbank -- where landings usually don't occur after 10 p.m. -- planes were arriving until 2 a.m. so they could be ready for scheduled sunrise departures, airport spokesman Victor Gill said.

At Ontario and Los Angeles International airports, 450 flights were canceled or diverted and numerous other flights were delayed, complicating the itineraries of an estimated 30,000 passengers, Los Angeles World Airports spokesman Tom Winfrey said.

John Wayne Airport in Orange County had 64 arrivals and departures canceled Tuesday night. The next morning, airlines added extra flights to accommodate delayed travelers.

At LAX, business traveler Stephen Chen stood in a long line and rued his decision to have a friend drive him from San Diego, where his cross-country flight had been canceled the night before.

The 31-year-old New Yorker was trying to get home after attending a conference in San Diego.

"I was supposed to be on the red-eye," he muttered.

Winfrey said airlines and passengers were lucky the outage occurred on a Tuesday after Labor Day, when business was relatively slow.

*

Times staff writers Erika Hayasaki and Dan Weikel contributed to this report.

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