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"Denver airport stays shut"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Breakdown of breakdown at airport
By Felix Doligosa, Jr., and Joe Garner
The Denver (CO) Rocky Mountain News 


9 p.m.: A voice over the intercom informs passengers the airport is closed. 

10 p.m.: Lights in sections of the luggage pickup area are dimmed, and
stranded passengers settle onto couches and slouch on chairs. Collin
Kostiha, 18, dozes atop his duffle bag on the luggage conveyer belt.
Kostiha, who is from St. Petersburg, Fla., is visiting Denver for the first
time with his family and plans to spend Christmas in Breckenridge. "It's
decent," he says describing his sleeping arrangements. 

11:15 p.m.: Two female basketball players from the University of Northern
Colorado bounce balloons and watch the Da Vinci Code on a laptop. They sleep
in their school sweatshirts and rest near the sliding doors of a parking
garage. "It's made this a whole lot better," Melanie Drangmeister, 21, of
Albuquerque, says about having a friend to spend the night with at the
airport. "It makes it less sad." Kaley Hoover, 18, of Dallas, says it's the
first time she's seen so much snow: "I would probably be having fun if I
didn't have to fly." 


12 a.m.: Passengers sleep against walls while others surf the Internet on
their laptops or read books. 

3:30 a.m.: Passengers stand in lines at Frontier and United with hopes of
booking standby flights for the evening. Some are already in line because
they slept by the ticket counters. 

6:45 a.m.: Airline representatives begin issuing tickets to passengers, and
some remain optimistic about the chance of flying out of Denver. "It was
worth it," says Greg Schaefbauer, 32, of Portland, Ore., after waiting in
line three hours to book a standby flight to Minneapolis. 

7:30 a.m.: Airport officials tell members of the media that flights are
canceled for the day but that they are hopeful evening flights may take off.
Long lines form at Burger King and coffee shops. 

9 a.m.: A voice over the intercom says all flights are suspended until
Friday at noon. Lines at eateries remain long as customers wait an average
of 20 minutes to order food. Some form lines at airline counters to

9:30 a.m.: Passengers gather blankets and mattresses and rest in the
concourses. Snow gathers at the wheels of planes and icicles stick to the
bottom of the aircrafts' noses. "They look like cave bacon," says
23-year-old Jeremiah Jantzen, of Littleton, who is headed to Brazil. 

10:30 a.m.: Fliers are handed out saying buses will pick up people at the
airport who have reservations at local hotels. Lines form in the terminal to
book hotel reservations. 

10:50 a.m.: Buses arrive at the airport and the line of hopeful passengers
stretches to the center of the terminal. DIA employees hold up signs with
hotel names in front of 10 buses as passengers board. 

11:50 a.m.: Buses depart but hundreds are left without a ride until more
buses return in two to three hours. 

2:02 p.m.: Peņa Boulevard has been brushed amazingly clear of snow. A DIA
sign announces that all parking lots are open, both garages and economy

2:20 p.m.: Barbara Ramirez, of Edgewater, has been waiting ever since she
was dropped off at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. "I slept in my chair with my
feet propped up on my suitcase," she says. "The food I bought was expensive,
but it was all the regular price they have here." Her 4-year-old grandson,
Ezra Ortega, arrives with his parents, Darin and Kathy Ortega, of Edgewater.
"I probably won't make it to Florida for Christmas," Ramirez says as she
headed home with her family. "Maybe for New Year's." 

3:40 p.m.: The sun finally breaks through. But Joy Sears, who is connecting
through Denver on a trip to Portland, Ore., has her head in her hands from
exhaustion after spending Wednesday night on the airport floor. "Seeing the
sun is promising at least," Sears says. "Maybe it means the storm is over." 

4:35 p.m.: The setting sun signals the start of the second night on the
airport floor for Fred and Karina Rothzeid, of Cincinnati. They were
traveling to Mexico for a nine-day vacation with their two college-age
children when the blizzard hit. After nearly seven hours Wednesday on a
plane that finally returned to the gate, the family spent Wednesday night
without cots or blankets on the airport floor. They scored blankets and two
cots for Thursday night, but had to be in line about 3:30 a.m. today for
information on flights either back home or on to Mazatlan. "It's
disappointing," Karina Rothzeid says. "This was going to be a nice family
vacation that we had planned and prepaid a long time ago." 

So, how was your unexpected stay at the airport spent? 

Jeremiah Jantzen, 23, Littleton 

Destination: Christmas with wife and two kids in Brazil. 

How will you pass the time until a flight is available? 

Same thing I did last night. Nothing. I did notice I spent $100 for three
calls to my wife. It's heartbreak after heartbreak. You keep getting dragged

Josh Hamby, 21, Orlando, Fla. 

Destination: Salt Lake City to see his father, who is suffering from
congestive heart failure. 

How are you passing the time? 

I met a friend. We were waiting in line to get rebooked, and she heard that
I work for Marriott. Hopefully, we will still be friends after this. I also
do stand-up comedy part time. I'm testing my jokes on her. 

Dawn Keane, 39, Sacramento, Calif. 

Destination: Returning to Sacramento after attending a funeral in Florida. 

What is your biggest complaint? 

The airport here isn't really prepared for this, even though it snows all
the time. The hotels are far away. In Sacramento, the hotels are close. 

Sharon Carley, 37, Colorado Springs 

Destination: Mexico for Christmas vacation with husband. 

How are you dealing with being stranded? 

I spent about $300 doing the tour of all the bars in the airport. At least
one drink has to be ordered, maybe two or three. I got kicked out of one bar
because they only allow one drink per hour. It's no Christmas in Mexico. 

Ryan Hammon, 27, Denver 

Destination: He and his girlfriend were to visit her family members in

How are you dealing with being stranded? 

It is pretty much drinking. My girlfriend and I also refunded our tickets
for about $1,600 altogether. We could have a good Christmas here.

Attached Photo:

DIA employee Tom Austin, who works in paging information, digs out his car
Thursday after it had been sitting in a parking lot since 5:40 p.m.
Wednesday. Severe weather forced the airport to be closed for a second
straight day.


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