Superstorm Sandy: Thousands may be stuck till weekend amid travel chaos
THOUSANDS of Britons face several days of travel disruption wrought by Superstorm Sandy, as a raft of flights between US and UK airports were cancelled ahead of the potentially devastating storm making landfall.
Airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic pulled services between the UK and the eastern seaboard of the US, leaving passengers on both sides of the Atlantic stranded until further notice.
Among those caught up in the disruption was a school party from the North-east of Scotland, who were bunkering down in a New York hotel last night braced for the Superstorm to hit.
With flights already cancelled for today, and further delays expected throughout the rest of the week as a result of a vast backlog, it could be the weekend before people are able to return home to their families.
Scotland’s two direct daily flights to the US – United’s from Edinburgh and Continental’s from Glasgow, both to Newark – were cancelled yesterday and today.
Erika Constantine, a mother of three, was among several passengers who turned up yesterday hoping to travel to the US. The 37-year-old had been due to fly to her home city of Boston via Heathrow with BA but has been told she will be stuck in Scotland until tomorrow at the earliest.
The paediatrician, who had been in Edinburgh to attend a cousin’s wedding, told The Scotsman: “I had a feeling when I came to the airport today that this would happen, but I came with my luggage hoping the weather might have improved and I’d be on my way home.
“I am lucky as my uncle, my cousin’s dad, who is up from Leeds, has rented a big flat in the centre of Edinburgh for a week and I am able to stay there, otherwise I would have been stranded.
“The airline says this is an act of God, so they would not have put me up in accommodation. I am sure there are plenty of people who are in that situation.”
Across the UK, BA scrapped all flights to and from New York, Newark, Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia, amounting to some 20 return services.
Virgin Atlantic also cancelled US east coast services, including 14 flights to and from New York, Newark, Boston and Washington.
As New York itself looked like a ghost town, with the city’s transport infrastructure grinding to a halt, a group of 11 pupils from Mackie Academy in Stonehaven told of their fears as the storm approached.
The group travelled to the US last week to take part in legal debating competition but were last night confined to their hotel.
Sixth-year pupil, Evie Brown, 17, said: “We’re a bit worried because we wanted to get home. We don’t have enough clothes or dollars to last us. We’re getting food from the hotel but are all panicking a little. None of us are used to this kind of weather. It’s quite worrying.”
On this side of the Atlantic, Heathrow was the scene of some of the most disruption, with 59 flights cancelled yesterday, including 47 flights to New York and 12 inbound flights from US airports. Passengers due to jet off during the English half-term holidays expressed disappointment at the cancelled flights, yet conceded airlines had no option.
Vincent McAviney, 24, from London, who planned to be setting off on holiday to Washington with BA, admitted: “Looking at the pictures and the forecasts, it seems like a fair enough decision.
“I’m obviously disappointed that my holiday has been shortened, but it’s nature, so there’s not much we can do about it.”
Many British passengers who will have their travel plans thwarted by Sandy are due to run in this weekend’s New York Marathon. Organisers of the race confirmed that 2,133 runners from the UK had been entered.
One competitor from London Josie Hinton, 27, is due to fly to New York tomorrow, but it remains unclear whether her flight will take off.
She said: “After spending months running hundreds of miles in preparation for the big day, I’ve got everything crossed that it won’t be ruined. All my family have planned a holiday in New York especially to support me, so it would be devastating if we were unable to get there.”
In the US, more than 7,000 flights have been axed. Major carriers such as American, United and Delta cancelled all flights in and out of New York.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west