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With more than 80 flights canceled, Tampa International Airport ghostly quiet

TAMPA — As airports around the country were dealing with passengers stranded by snow Wednesday, the scene at Tampa International Airport was other-worldly.

"It's a ghost town," said veteran Continental Airlines flight attendant Peggy Niesciur as she sipped tea at Starbucks before a 9 a.m. flight. "People know ahead of time their flights were canceled."

Tampa International saw more than 80 flight cancellations Wednesday as the worst snowstorm in decades paralyzed a third of the country. But for computer screens showing flight cancellations, it was hard to tell.

Niesciur, 63, said this winter's cancellations and delays have been among the worst in her 25 years as a flight attendant. When she started, passengers wouldn't find out about canceled flights until an hour ahead of schedule departure. Now they can find out hours or even a full day beforehand.

So you don't see crowds of upset passengers, said Laura Martin, a Continental flight attendant for 12 years. "It's been running very smoothly. I really do believe that. Honestly, it could be a lot worse," Martin, 50, said of Tampa's airport.

Starbucks barista Liset Perez said flight attendants and some grumpy passengers mentioned canceled flights, but most were happy by the time they grabbed their coffee.

At Port of Call, a boutique selling an assortment of things including chocolates and Vera Bradley bags, Ellie Pagan was the only one in the store. She works there.

Cancellations and delays sometimes help bring in bored passengers to buy stuff or they keep the store empty. "Many, many times it helps because people will stop and look and buy," Pagan said.

This season has already seen more canceled flights in Tampa because storms started earlier, said Brenda Geoghagan, a TIA spokeswoman.

With more than 80 flights canceled, Tampa International Airport ghostly quiet 02/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 11:20pm]
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