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Thousands of travelers stranded at DIA Tuesday after more than 5 dozen flight cancellations

Passengers forced to sleep on cots or DIA floor
Posted at 6:33 AM, Jun 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-28 11:45:04-04

DENVER — United Airlines travelers at Denver International Airport had to sleep on cots and the floor Tuesday morning after more than five dozen flights were canceled.

More than 6,000 flights were canceled across the country from Sunday to Tuesday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, in part due to severe weather.

Those flight disruptions backed up travelers at DIA Tuesday. The cancellations and delays only continued to go up after initial reports of issues overnight and in the early morning hours. As of 12:30 p.m., 64 flights were canceled at DIA, a majority of which were United Airlines. There were 262 total delays.

Passengers who talked with Denver7 about the cancellations said United Airlines told them employees weren't showing up for work, so the company couldn't properly staff the flights.

Approximately 3,000 cots were given out to stranded passengers between Monday and Tuesday. Those with DIA said they do "have resources to support passengers with certain items in a variety of situations like emergencies. However, DEN cannot speak to the cots United provided to the customers and recent cancellations."

One passenger named Jessica who was on a returning flight from Iceland with her daughter said they tried to get a cot Monday because they've been stuck at DIA for more than 12 hours.

"By the time we got up there at 2 this morning, there were boxes everywhere. And there was a United Agent standing there and we asked if we could have a cot and he said he ran out. He said they used all 3000 of them .And so they didn't have any more, but he actually ended up going to his office and getting his emergency cot and brought it out for my daughter," Jessica said.

She was booked on a flight Tuesday night to make her way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jessica instead booked a flight with Southwest Airlines that leaves earlier Tuesday afternoon.

Other passengers sounded off on Twitter about the derailed travel plans.

ABC News obtained a letter from the CEO of United Airlines Scott Kirby that reads, "I'm also frustrated that the FAA frankly failed us this weekend."

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Kirby went on to say, "the FAA reduced the arrival rates by 40% and the departure rates by 75%. That is almost certainly a reflection of understaffing/lower experience at the FAA."

According to Kirby United estimated that over 150,000 customers on United alone were impacted over the weekend because of FAA staffing issues and the agency's ability to manage traffic.

The response from the FAA was, "We will always collaborate with anyone seriously willing to join us to solve a problem."

However, in a statement to Denver7, a United spokesperson said "recurring thunderstorms in the Northeast have made airline operations very challenging. We know our customers are eager to get to their destinations. Our teams at airports and our contact centers have been working significant overtime to restore the reliability our customers depend on."

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