Frustrated flyers hit the road

4:59 PM, Jun 30, 2007   |    comments
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When two Twin Cities women flew to New York on business Monday, they planned to be back two days later. "It never even occurred to me," Melodie Thostenson, who works at CHS Inc. in Inver Grove Heights, said. But Thostenson and her co worker Tina Raisanen were just two of the thousands of passengers stranded by Northwest Airlines when it cancelled hundreds of flights this week nationwide. "They were saying it was weather related," Thostenson said. With its planes grounded across the country, even flying home from other airports was not an option. Everything was booked. "We said we'll go out of Boston, Newark, Washington," Raisanen said. Instead, Northwest said their only choice was to wait two more days for the next available flight, a flight they still weren't sure would fly as scheduled. "We thought, 'We can't chance it,'" Raisanen said. Then, waiting in the LaGuardia terminal, the women met another Minnesotan — a man off his plane, on the ground, and in the same boat. He had a car, a rental minivan he was driving cross country, back to the Twin Cities. And that left just one question: "Do we go? Do we drive to Minneapolis with a stranger?" said Thostenson. The women did, and after 23 hours, a few quick stops and on just one hour of sleep, Tina, Melodie and their new friend Neil were home, beating their Northwest flight by more than a day. "What you just want is smooth business travel," Thostenson said. "And you want to make sure that when you leave you can come back. And it's so disruptive in your personal life." None of the three know yet whether Northwest will compensate them for their time and trouble, but they do know this: they'll be back to traveling again soon, and even with the airline's problems they'd rather be flying than driving. "It was a long time in the car," said Thostenson. "A long time in the car." Northwest blames its cancelled flights on East coast thunderstorms, congestion and pilot absenteeism. It says it's planning to trim routes and recall furloughed pilots in order to resume a normal flight schedule by this weekend.

By Janel Klein, KARE 11 News

(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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