Thousands stranded at LMM as blizzard blankets Northeast
|JetBlue aircraft parked on the LMM runway. (Credit: Víctor Román)|
Nearly two dozen flights in and out of the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in Carolina were grounded Monday, leaving about 2,000 passengers stranded as a major blizzard dumped significant amounts of snow throughout several states along the Mid-Atlantic and U.S. eastern seaboard.
All of the major airlines serving the Carolina airport — American Airlines, Continental, JetBlue and Spirit — canceled flights, helping passengers to find hotel rooms and reschedule their trips for a later day. In some instances, travelers will not be able to catch a flight out until New Year’s Eve.
Early in the day, Continental announced it had canceled its two flights to Newark Airport, which on Monday remained closed, along with at least six more airports in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
On its Web site, ultra-low cost carrier Spirit Airlines had posted its “weather buster policy” advising passengers who had reservations on Sunday and Monday that they would not be charged for rebooking travel, as long as it takes place before Jan. 14. The airports included in the waiver policy are: Atlantic City, Boston, La Guardia Airport in New York, and Washington, D.C.
JetBlue followed suit, lining up its aircraft on the airport’s runway as it canceled the majority of its flights on Monday — an estimated 300 throughout the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico. The carrier is also giving passengers until Jan. 14 to rebook.
Hotels, Tourism Co. scramble
As passengers learned of their flight cancellations, the volume of reservations at nearby hotels picked up, industry executives said Monday.
While there are not enough rooms available to accommodate all of those who are stranded, hoteliers said they were offering special rates for what is available in hotels in Isla Verde, Condado and Old San Juan. Occupancy at most major metropolitan area is already at about 70 percent, as this year’s high tourism season is just getting started.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Company assigned personnel at LMM to assist passengers with their alternatives.
Late in the day, Ports Authority Executive Director Alberto Escudero told Univision that the agency had designated an area at the airport where passengers will be provided with portable cots, food and water so they can stay at the airport.
“We don’t want people who can’t find a hotel room, or can’t afford one, to sleep on the floor,” Escudero said.