Stranded airline passengers spend days trying to get home

Flight travel headaches caused by last week’s blizzard continue to affect passengers — some of whom were stranded for days.

Airlines have added extra planes attempting to clear the backlog

Some remain stranded after the domino-effect of cancellation upon cancellation.

Flight travel headaches caused by last week’s blizzard continue to affect passengers — some of whom were stranded for days.

Some remain stuck after the domino-effect of cancellation upon cancellation. Air Canada has even added a 458-seat Boeing 777 jet to help clear the backlog of passengers waiting at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The jet will take passengers from Toronto to Halifax and then back to Toronto.

Betty Lou Hooper from Sydney, her husband, and their son were delayed in New Jersey for four days. Then told they would have to wait another six.

The Hooper family went to California for the oldest son’s wedding. What started as a fun celebration, ended in frustration, extra bills and lost luggage.

“You could almost feel when you walked off the plane and into the airport, you could feel something wasn't right because there were thousands of people around and bags everywhere, and caution tape, and I thought, this is not good,” she said.

Their travel day started in Sacramento, Calif., then to Los Angeles and on to Newark, N.J. There they waited for four days for their promised flight, only to have it cancelled and told they'd need to wait another six days. So they rented a car and made the 16-and-a-half-hour drive back to Nova Scotia.

Not only did they have to wait in New Jersey — they had to wait without any luggage.

Hooper's son is diabetic and dependent on insulin. She had just enough for four days in her carry-on. United Airlines still wouldn't release their luggage.

“Even though [there was] a medical alert right there on my computer — he could read it, ‘Oh you're travelling with medical’ — and they still said 'Oh sorry we can't help you.'  The hands went up. ‘We can't do anything for you,’” said Hooper.

They racked up nearly $2,000 dollars in expenses — hotels, meals and some extra clothes they needed to buy.

United told them they would not receive any compensation for the added expenses.

Hooper said she understands they have no control over the weather, “But what they do have control over is the way they treat people,” she said.

When they arrived in Halifax, one piece of luggage was waiting for them, but three are still missing.

She's been calling the airline, trying to track the bags down.

“I'm going to actually put in a formal complaint about the customer service and its lacking compassion and empathy,” said Hooper.

Hooper said the experience hasn't soured her taste for travel — but she'll never travel with United Airlines again.

Theirs is not an isolated story.

Thousands stranded

St. Francis Xavier student James Cote also spent days trying to get home.

Cote left North Carolina on Saturday but was stuck in airports in Newark, then Montreal, finally arriving in Halifax Wednesday night.

The 19-year-old spent three restless nights sleeping at airports because he was told he was too young to rent a hotel room.

“At first they were not going to sell me a hotel because I'm under 21, and they have a policy of not giving hotels to people under 21,” he said. “But I showed them my ticket and they said,’All right you've been up for awhile, we'll give you a room for the night.’”

Cote said he's missed the first week of school and he is still waiting for his luggage to arrive before taking the bus back to St. FX.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.