Because of advance warnings of the impending strike, only about 15,000 passengers were traveling through the airport on Saturday, down from the usual 80,000, airport officials said.
One Paynesville family knew they might get stranded in Denver, Colo., with the threat of the airlines going on strike, but they took their chances.
Steve Masih and Nancy Landmark were to be in Boulder, Colo., on Aug. 30, for the baptism of their godson. They normally drive when they head to visit relatives, but because of their busy schedules, decided to fly this time.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, they called Northwest Airlines and were told they would not get a refund on their ticket. They had two options, fly out and get stranded or stay home and lose the money they had spent on the tickets if the pilots went on strike.
ďWe opted to fly out and take our chances,Ē Nancy said. ďAfter reaching Boulder, we spent three hours on the telephone talking with other airlines trying to find alternative ways home. Delta Airlines would only take us home on Saturday, TWA and American Airlines were both full on Sunday and Frontier and U.S. Air would only take us on standby. We were a family of four, there was no way we would split up and go on standby,Ē Nancy said.
On Saturday, they called Delta again. They were able to get a guaranteed seat if they flew from Denver to Ohio, then to Minneapolis.
Because of the strike, Delta brought some of their commuter planes to Cincinnati to handle the overflow of passengers left stranded by the strike.
Nancy said about everybody on the plane were relocated Northwest Airline passengers.
ďWhat would normally be a two-hour flight home turned into an all day trip. We had a two and one-half hour layover in Cincinnati. The kids were great. Philip, 11 months, had slept from Denver to Cincinnati. Kirsten, 5, thought it was fun at first,Ē Nancy said. ďHowever, when we arrived home, Kirsten said she was glad to be back home. I was worried we wouldnít make it back in time for Kirsten to start school.Ē
Nancy had an aunt who reached Minneapolis on the first leg of her flight from the east coast before the strike went into effect. She never completed the second leg of her flight to Denver and was stranded in Minneapolis. Nancyís sister from Boston flew straight to Denver and arrived in time for the baptism.
Nancy said she encountered other people at the airport looking for ways home. One man had rented a car in Salt Lake City so he could get home. It cost him $1,500.
Nancy also encountered a four-year-old stranded in Denver. His dad lives on the west coast and his mother on the east coast. He was flying back to his mother when the pilots went on strike.
Eileen Flanders of Flanders Travel Service said she was very anxious in August and wouldnít book anybody with Northwest Airlines because of the possible strike. Her next booking on Northwest Airline is Sept. 28. She hopes the strike is settled by then.
ďThe last strike (20 years ago) lasted 100 days. This strike is putting a lot of nice people out of jobs that rely on Northwest passengers for their business,Ē Flanders said.
Flanders explained she books her tickets through Daytons in St. Cloud. ďI have tried booking people on other airlines. The closer to your travel date, the more seats cost. A flight to Portland, Ore., costs $1,200,Ē she said.
ďThe future doesnít look very promising, once the pilots settle, the machinists and flight attendants are also threatening strikes,Ē Flanders added.
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