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Air control technical snafu in Virginia strands Tampa airline passengers

TAMPA — Traveling with a party of seven got a lot more complicated for Ileana Loreto after her family arrived Saturday afternoon at Tampa International Airport and discovered their flight had been canceled.

"As soon as we got here around 4:30, we looked up and saw the computer and it said canceled," said Loreto, a 39-year-old Houston, Texas, resident, who was visiting St. Petersburg. "And yes, we are quite disappointed."

The Loreto clan of seven was hardly alone.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, "technical issues," at an air control center Saturday morning in Leesburg, Va., resulted in seven flight cancellations and 62 delays at Tampa International as of 2 p.m., airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said.

Dejected passengers and family members clustered near kiosks, scrambling for secondary plans and calling their workplaces.

"Fortunately, my boss and I have worked together for 20 years, so I shouldn't be fired," said Shannon Mosser, 40, a manager for a publishing company. But Mosser, of Lancaster, Pa., said he has to drop another $600 to $700 just to return home since Southwest Airlines would only give him a voucher to use within 12 months.

Loreto said her husband, who works in telecommunications, needs to return home as soon as possible. The flight puts her family out "hundreds of dollars," she said.

"What we wanted to save going on Spirit, we now have to spend on United in order to get home," she said.

Her family, if they cannot get a flight home, plans to book a hotel. Mosser and his family are crashing with a close friend until the next available flight.

Standing near the monitor, the screen glowing with the greens and reds of comings and goings, Andre Hayes and his family crossed their fingers for good luck.

They had arrived around 5:45 p.m. Saturday for a flight "and thought we had it timed perfectly," said Hayes, 43, who lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters.

They quickly realized, like so many others, that their flight had been delayed an hour and a half.

Contact Zack Peterson at zpeterson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3368.

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