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Crash disrupts air travel in the eastern U.S.

The American Airlines crash in New York forced airlines to temporarily ground or reroute dozens of flights Monday, disrupting travel across the eastern half of the country.

Hundreds of travelers were stranded as New York's three major airports _ Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, N.J. _ closed for several hours. Flights were delayed from New Hampshire to Florida.

Some travelers concluded that they no longer wanted to get to their destinations.

At LaGuardia, for instance, one woman screamed at an American Airlines employee, demanding her money back and saying she wouldn't fly again.

After starting early Monday morning in Bermuda, Marita Roberts, 33, an immigration officer in Bermuda, and her travel companion, Caldon Grimes, 30, a corrections officer, were stuck at Kennedy, trying to get a flight to Miami so they could hop on a six-day cruise to the Bahamas.

As they waited on a plane that they expected to take off from Kennedy, Roberts said they learned of the crash not from the flight staff, but from cell phones.

"The phones started ringing," Roberts said, "and that's the only way we found out."

The crash comes as airlines struggle to regain their financial footing following a drop in an already slow travel market. U.S. airlines are expected to lose some $10-billion this year, despite more than $2-billion in federal aid.

Despite the cancellations and delays, there was no industry-wide disruption Monday and most airlines began resuming normal operations by midday. Some airline officials said they had learned from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Federal authorities did not shut down the nation's skies, as they did following the jetliner hijackings Sept. 11 that killed more than 4,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Airports in other parts of the country remained open, and airlines hurried to redirect flights away from New York.

United Airlines, the nation's second-largest carrier after American, held flights on the ground at airports nationwide for about an hour. Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, the nation's third- and fourth-largest carriers, ordered planes bound for New York to return to the airport of origin, as did Continental Airlines.

International flights headed to New York were diverted to Boston, Cincinnati and Washington's Dulles Airport. At least one inbound British Airways flight returned to London.

Airports throughout the Northeast were told not to allow takeoffs for about an hour, and two airports were closed for several hours even though they had no direct link to the crashed jet.

Daniel Rothmuller, 58, a cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, heard about the crash before he arrived at the airport for an American Airlines flight to New York, where he is to perform Sunday. It was his first flight since Sept. 11.

"First of all, I was horrified that there was an airplane crash," he said. "Then I thought, oh my God, it's another terrorist attack."

He never considered not flying: "Walking on stage is more freaky than this."

_ Information from Newsday was used in this report.

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