World Airways is not obligated to pay the difference between its discount fares and those rates charged by other airlines for any passenger who was stranded by grounding of DC10 aircraft. A story in Thursday's editions incorrectly quoted a World spokesman as saying the airline would pay the difference. CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Picture, Passengers wait at United Air Lines counter at Dulles after their flight was canceled yesterday due to DC10 groundings. By James A. Parcell - The Washington Post
Margaret Reedy had driven for more than an hour from her Charles Town, W. Va., home yesterday morning to catch a low-priced World Airways flight to Los Angeles at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. So she was in no mood to find the DC10 jumbo jet grounded.
"They're trying to protect my body and they are driving my mind crazy," she complained, while waiting in line to book another flight, scheduled to leave today. "I've flown on DC10s 20 times and they have never fallen, and I don't think they would this time."
Reedy was among tens of thousands of Americans whose travel plans were bent askew yesterday by the latest Federal Aviation Administration order grounding the nation's 138 wide-bodied McDonnell-Douglas DC10s. Hundreds of passengers were delayed, rerouted or - like Reedy - simply went home again after showing up at Baltimore-Washington and Dulles International airports, the only airports in the Washington area normally served by DC10s.
"Airlines are scrambling to accommodate passengers," Dan Henkin, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, the trade group representing 31 U.S. air carriers, said yesterday, echoing the views of many airline officials here and throughout the country.
According to ATA estimates, more then 70,000 passengers - almost 10 percent of the U.S. airlines' 800,000 daily customers - were bumped from the grounded DC10s throughout the nation yesterday. The DC10s normally make 450 U.S. departures a day, according to the association, and although the 138 planes represent only 6 percent of the American passenger fleet, the jumbo jets provide 12 percent of available airline capacity.
Some airports were hit much harder by the DC10 groundings yesterday than those in the Washington area, according to aviation officials. Among the DC10s' main routes are Miami-to-Los Angeles, Chicago-to-Los Angeles, New York-to-Los Angeles or San Francisco, and Los Angeles-to-Hawaii, officials said.
Nevertheless, the cancellation of DC10 flights had an unmistakable impact a the Washington area's two international airports. National Airport is not served by DC10s.
Among the first group of travelers affected by yesterday's DC10 grounding in the Washington area was a crowd of about 180 would-be passengers bound for a gambling junket arranged by Las Vegas' Dunes Hotel. Their chartered American Airlines DC10 was barred from making its scheduled 7:45 a.m. takeoff at Baltimore-Washington. Only about 70 of the junketeers found their way to the Dunes yesterday by switching to other flights, airline and hotel officials said.
Airport passengers greeted the DC10 flight disruptions with a mixture of annoyance, resignation, bemusement and humor.
"Look, I've been on cable cars that got stuck over rocks and water," said Verna Anderson, 70, who was stranded at Baltimore-Washington Airport, waiting for a flight to Chicago. "I've been to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas in Peru. I've been in the middle of anti-American riots in the streets of Panama - twice the store owners had to hide me to save my life. So this is nothing."
Dr. John Dennis, a Baltimore physician also bound for Chicago, said he had encountered a three-hour delay because of the DC10 groundings and expected to miss a medical education committee meeting. "But," he noted philosophically, "there are 18 members.I guess they can get along without me."
Valdur Putsep, a retired Baltimore policeman, seemed untroubled by the delay." "If it saves lives, naturally, it's right," he said of the FAA grounding order. "But they've been flying all those years - and no trouble." He added that he would have been delayed in Chicago anyway because he would have had to wait for his brother to get off work there.
For Irma Aravanis and her brother, Anthony Samaras, the cancellation of DC10 flights threw into doubt a trip to Greece that they said they had dreamed of for 15 years. "This is worse than terrible - it's tragic," said Aravanis, a Washington resident, as she waited at Baltimore-Washington Airport.
Despite widespread publicity about the DC10 groundings, some passengers had not received the word even by late yesterday afternoon. About 50 prospective travelers showed up at Dulles for a 5:40 p.m. DC10 flight to Seattle, according to airline officials. Officials said they were trying to find seats for them on other Seattle-bound planes.
Yesterday's FAA order halted 14 inbound and outbound DC10 flights at Dulles and six regularly scheduled arriving and departing flights at Baltimore-Washington in addition to the canceled Las Vegas-bound charter.
There appeared to be considerably less confusion yesterday at Dulles than at Baltimore-Washington because most of the Dulles flights were scheduled for midday or afternoon, giving airline officials time to telephone prospective passengers and arrange alternate flights. There was one canceled 6 a.m. DC10 flight from Dulles to Philadelphia, but an American Airlines spokesman said that the 70 Philadelphia-bound passengers were given seats on a 7:15 a.m. Trans World Airlines flight.
Airport spokesmen said the DC10 grounding halted 8.7 percent of the flights at Dulles and about 2 percent of those at Baltimore-Washington.
Because of World Airways' low-cost fares, airline prices became a factor in passengers' effort to change their travel plans at Baltimore-Washington yesterday morning.
About 90 customers showing up for a canceled DC10 World Airways flight that had been scheduled to leave at 10:30 a.m. for Newark and Los Angeles, according to a spokesman. About 60 of them were given refunds for their $107.99 one-way tickets and switched to flights on American and other airlines, the spokesman said. An American Airlines official said the passengers then paid fares ranging from $268 for a round-trip ticket - a price allowed for travelers spending seven days in Los Angeles - to as much as $233 for a one-way standard fare.
A World spokesman in Oakland, Calif., said later yesterday that World was obligated to find alternate flights to Los Angeles and pay the difference for any passengers it had booked on the canceled flight.
To Margaret Reedy, the would-be traveler from Charles Town, price, however was not the main issue. "To ground the DC10s causes people mental anguish trying to get to their planes," she said. Finally, she obtained a seat on a Continental Airlines flight scheduled for today.
I'm just going to go home and weed the garden," she remarked yesterday, as she turned to leave the airport.