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Heavy traffic, bad weather hamper returning students

“It was crappy,” said Boston University freshman Stephanie Burac last night after arriving at Logan International Airport from Chicago. Her attitude seemed typical of many travelers who arrived back in Boston despite the holiday’s poor weather, heavy traffic and other obstacles.

Burac claimed a United Airlines policy of giving priority to frequent passengers in the event of cancellations left her waiting in Chicago for eight hours.

“I was in the front, but as more people came in with more miles, I got bumped back,” she said. “They were going to put me on a flight for 5:45 Monday evening,” she said, explaining that it was the earliest confirmed flight.

Burac complained that the airline staff was mostly unsympathetic to her situation.

“One lady squeezed me in when she probably shouldn’t have, but others just didn’t care,” Burac said, suggesting the airlines provide more flights on such heavy traffic days. “They should have more planes waiting in the biggest hubs.”

The bad weather put additional burdens on the already strained air traffic system, said Continental spokeswoman Karen Watson. Although the weather in Boston was mild, storms in New York and Chicago created air traffic control delays as long as two hours, she said. Still, she said, the workload was typical for the season.

Though other passengers complained about delays, few were quick to criticize airline staff. Weather, congestion and mechanical circumstances were all cited as problems, but most people said flight and ground personnel did a good job dealing with the poor conditions.

Kira Whelan, a Harvard junior, was not as agitated. She sat through a 30-minute delay in Los Angeles during congestion.

“Everyone was pretty cool. This is supposed to be the busiest travel day of the year. They handled it pretty well,” she said.

Other passengers were not so relaxed.

“Worst day I could think of for Mother Nature to throw a tantrum,” said Harvard freshman Nicholson Price as he waited for the subway after a United flight from Washington-Dulles. He complained of a two-hour delay at Dulles attributed to “ground-stop” at Logan, as well as another 30-minute postponement as air traffic controllers juggled flights and runways.

“For today, it was not surprising, but it was definitely more than reasonable. I could expect an hour, maybe an hour and a half. But this was too much,” he said.

Price described the airline staff as cheerful and efficient, but frazzled. “While they realized things were not pleasant, they did the best they could,” he said.

Jennean Knowles, a Brandeis University senior, flew from Miami to New York to Boston with Delta. When asked if there were any problems during her travel, she replied with an emphatic “Yesssss.”

Her flight was canceled in Miami without explanation or prior notification. She took a new flight hours later and arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to await a Delta Connection to Logan.

“[Delta] Connections just suck,” she said. “I do not understand why they can’t simply give us a flight right from Miami to Boston. Miami is a huge city, Boston is a huge city. There should be something more direct.”

The congestion in Boston was “typical, in terms of how the staff handled it. They had resigned themselves to delays. But, I got first class. … I don’t think they are insensitive but they are not over-sensitive. By the afternoon they are just ticked off and really have no way to help.”

Harvard sophomore Jake Ng received an unconventional greeting on a Midway flight from Raleigh-Durham: “Welcome to Midway Flight 7 to Bermuda.”

Apart from noting flight attendant sarcasm, he was not dissatisfied with the service.

“I don’t usually see a two-hour delay, expect for international flights, but this is not unreasonable for the end of the holiday, especially since the weather was bad.”

Christine Doherty, a Boston University alumna and veteran flier, took the Midway flight which boarded in Orlando before connecting in Raleigh-Durham. The Orlando flight was overbooked and she gave up her ticket, but did not expect to have to wait for three hours before the next available seat.

“I expected a delay because Logan is terrible, but the cab situation made it even worse,” she said. Other fliers just as eager to finally get home lined up for 100 feet for taxi service outside the airport.

Despite her ordeal, she did not condemn the airline employees. “I am pretty satisfied with the way they dealt with it,” she said.

Travelers on Massachusetts’ highways this holiday weekend encountered few problems other than heavy traffic, despite poor weather.

Cars clogged large portions of the Massachusetts Turnpike, including the junction of the Pike and I-84 near Sturbridge. To ease the congestion at the interchange, toll-takers waved hundreds of motorists through the booths without taking tolls.

According to Sgt. Ronald Sieberg of the State Police, black ice and rain caused several accidents in the morning, including an 11 car-crash on I-93 in Somerville. Many motorists drove too fast for the conditions, he said. Most of the incidents, including the Somerville crash, were minor, Sieberg added, and few serious injuries were reported.

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