East Coast travelers head to Pittsburgh for flights


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Travelers stranded in airports along the eastern seaboard where Hurricane Sandy has crippled air traffic hopped into rental cars and headed for Pittsburgh, where most flights moving away from the storm continue to take off.

When newlyweds Brian and Lauren Brooks left Minneapolis for their honeymoon, Pittsburgh was not part of their plans. But thanks to what experts predict will be the worst storm to hit the northeast in decades, the couple have already learned to cope with adversity just 10 days into their marriage.

The pair wed in Bloomington, Minn., before 300 guests Oct. 19. Two days later they caught a plane to New York City, where their honeymoon plans began to unravel.

"We were supposed to go on cruise to the Bahamas, and well, that didn't happen," said Mrs. Brooks, 23.

The ship traveled to Florida and the northern tip of the Bahamas as scheduled, but skipped stops in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay. The captain also turned back a day early after battling 15 foot swells in the open ocean.

When the ship returned to New York City at 8 a.m. yesterday, the couple learned their direct flight home on American Airlines this evening was among one of thousands across the country that have been cancelled. The nearest airport that offered a chance to get to Minneapolis was Pittsburgh International Airport, so they rented a car and took off at 6:30 p.m. last night.

Mrs. Brooks said they reached Pittsburgh around 2:30 a.m. and found a Delta flight leaving for Atlanta at 3 p.m. They'll finally reach Minneapolis at 10:30 p.m. tonight after an eight-hour layover, an extra $800 spent on airline tickets, a hotel stay and rental car, and one tear-filled emotional breakdown.

"It's a honeymoon we'll always remember," Mr. Brooks, 27, said.

Jim McGann, 52, said Baltimore Washington International Airport was all but shut down when he rented a car and left for Pittsburgh today at 6 a.m.

The Denver native was supposed to fly home from Baltimore at 11 a.m. after a weekend business trip, but learned last night that his flight was cancelled. The next available flight out of Baltimore was this weekend.

Mr. McGann, who works for a telecommunications company, found a flight to Chicago and then Denver departing from Pittsburgh at 2:55 p.m.

He's keeping his fingers crossed that none of the other legs of his trip are cancelled and he can get back to work tomorrow.

"I travel all the time and, unfortunately, I'm used to this," he said.

JoAnn Jenny, a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, advised travelers to continue to arrive at least two hours early for flights later this week when air traffic across the country begins to pick up.

"If you have a flight Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, you'll want to get here early because so many people will be re-booking flights," she said.

Officials also suggests that travelers continue to check for flight updates with their airlines. weather - homepage - breaking - region


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