Fog frustrates travelers, airlines

Rural Jacksonville resident Lillian Stewart expected a quick trip back to Medford from Colorado Springs Saturday, with a stop-over in Denver to switch planes.

But, like others heading into or out of Medford while the valley is socked in with fog, she was hammered with complications.

A spokesperson for Horizon Air said the airline has canceled 25 flights serving Medford this past week, including 21 since Sunday, affecting more than 1,700 passengers.

"It's frustrating for us and certainly for our customers," said Bobbie Egan of Alaska Air Group. "We've had to cancel flights when planes that overnight at the airport couldn't get in. After circling three times they have to come back and we have to cancel the morning flights as well.

When planes have mechanical issues, it's customary for airlines to rebook passengers, when possible, with other airlines.

"The other airlines in Medford have the same issues and are not able to get in and out of Medford," Egan said. "I think Medford is unique this time of year. Residents are accustomed to the weather and are very understanding."

Stewart was flying United when her Saturday flight from Denver to Medford was canceled.

By the time Stewart arrived in the Rogue Valley Sunday afternoon, her nerves were frayed, patience thin and bags missing in action.

Stewart and her bags parted company after her Saturday flight was canceled.

She had planned to eat on her return flight and had neither food nor water. Worse yet, Stewart was out of her medication, having been in Colorado since traveling to visit her son's family for Thanksgiving.

On Saturday, Stewart and a handful of others headed for Medford were sent to a motel in Denver to wait. Although United had rebooked her on a Tuesday flight, she found herself on a Delta flight Sunday. Changing planes in Salt Lake City, she was aboard one of the last planes to land in Medford before fog again closed operations.

Her luggage, however, wasn't on the same plane.

"I have a royal-blue band on my bag and I can recognize it a football field away," Stewart said. "I waited and waited when the bags came out and it never came."

SkyWest Airlines, which operates United Express and Delta Connection flights to Medford, subcontracts its ground crew operations through DAL Global Services, a unit of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

"As soon as they unload and load the planes, the ground crew all goes home," Stewart said. "Nobody was taking responsibility. United still has my bag; it never gave Delta my bag, but United gave Delta the other people's bags that were on my flight.

"I'm told my bag has been in San Francisco since Monday. It's supposed to be coming in late this afternoon — maybe."

With her son, an Army captain, set for redeployment soon, Stewart is scrambling to get back to Colorado. "But I'm driving this time," she said.

— Greg Stiles

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