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Scripps News reporter books train after days of flight cancellations

Mary Chao decided to book a 21-hour train ride from Orlando to New York after several days of flight cancellations.
Scripps News reporter books train after days of flight cancellations
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-29 11:13:38-04

When the going gets tough, the tough get creative. 

After a second straight day of a late night flight cancellation at Orlando International Airport Tuesday, and yet another long wait in airport lines, I decided enough was enough. 

No more air travel. Seeing the hundreds of passengers at the airport bumped off flights thinking they will get another, I knew intuitively it would be days before New York City airports would get back to normal. 

Flights are so packed right now that there’s little wiggle room when weather goes awry. 

Almost all the flights from Orlando to Newark International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport and JFK International Airport were canceled on Wednesday. 

According to FlightAware, more than 2,400 flights were delayed or canceled Tuesday across the United States as powerful storms ripped through the eastern region. On Monday, more than 8,000 flights were delayed or canceled. 

SEE MORE: Airport nightmare: Reporter faces 3 days of canceled flights home

The weather isn't the only factor for the air travel chaos: A JetBlue pilot told waiting passengers there is a shortage of air traffic controllers.

According to the Federal Times, more than half of government workers surveyed said they were burnt out from their jobs with positions unfilled. 

As I was traveling for work for the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, I asked the corporate travel agent to get me an Amtrak ticket. I knew that there were no more one-way car rentals out of Orlando, as other passengers had tried. The only way out is a 21-hour train ride. 

"Are you sure?" the agent asked me. Apparently, trains have not been an acceptable choice for other corporate travelers. 

I figured it's at least moving forward in the right direction. It's better than sitting at an airport.

I am on board an Amtrak train as I write this, and will be in New York City by midday Thursday. I'm seeing America from my little train window while sipping iced tea. 

How did other travelers fare? Suzy Bashjawish of Westchester County, New York was bumped off three flights Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. She cannot get a flight to the New York City area until Friday.

Julie Kim of Montclair, New Jersey, arrived home Tuesday night after an ordeal that had the family traveling from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers to Charlotte without rental cars and no reimbursements from airlines for cancellations. She estimates she spent an extra $2,500 to get her family of four on a flight from North Carolina to LaGuardia Tuesday night. 

Bashjawish has been putting the expenses on her credit card. As a baker, her budget is tight. 

Reflecting on this experience, I'm grateful that I'm healthy and have a support system. Others on this journey are strained. 


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