Thousands of fliers across the U.S. were delayed Friday after a morning shooting at Los Angeles International Airport closed parts of the airport. The prolonged shutdown at the nation's third largest airport was particularly troublesome for those hoping to head to the East Coast or across the Pacific Ocean.
Flights bound for Los Angeles that had not yet taken off were held at their gates for hours by the Federal Aviation Administration. There were more than 100 cancellations. Some flights already in the air were allowed to land at LAX while others diverted to nearby airports.
Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the Los Angeles airport, said at a midday press conference that planes were landing at the airport at "less than half the normal arrival rate."
Flight tracking site FlightAware.com said that as of 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, there were 126 flight cancellations, about 11 percent of the flights to or from Los Angeles. Another 232 flights were delayed. To put that in perspective, there were roughly 200 other flight cancellations Friday nationwide, mostly in New York and Philadelphia because of rain and heavy winds.
The shooting occurred around 9:30 a.m. local time. Some passengers who landed after the incident spent at least two hours sitting on planes parked in a remote corner of the airport.
Even though the airport never fully closed, travelers trying to fly out were unable to reach it because of massive road closures.
Lindsey said it will take "quite a deal of time" to get operations back to normal at the airport. She said it will be a "carefully orchestrated logistical ballet."
Even after police cleared some terminals, passengers couldn't return until airport employees were able to return to their posts. Passengers were advised to wait at nearby hotels until they hear more information about flight resumptions.
Los Angles is a major gateway for flights to Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Domestically, the largest cities served are: San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, San Jose, Calif., San Diego and Phoenix.
However, it is not a major connection point such as Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Minneapolis.
Most airlines issued waivers for people traveling through Los Angeles, allowing them to change flights without paying a fee.
JetBlue diverted flights from Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to nearby Long Beach airport. Southwest diverted at least one flight — a trip from Chicago that landed in Denver.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.
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