Tensions rise at SFO for those waiting for UK flights

April 23, 2010 9:29:13 AM PDT
Although flights to Europe have resumed, stranded passengers who've been stuck at San Francisco International Airport for five days have reached their limit.

Thursday was the first day since the volcano erupted that no European flights were canceled. Eleven flights to Europe and 11 flights from Europe arrived. Still, there are a lot of people trying to get home and tempers are flaring.

A woman yelled at the ticket agent: "We've already told you. I'm pregnant, she's got... her father's in the hospital, we've got a small baby."

Anger has taken hold of the international terminal. Now that a full week has passed since the volcanic eruption in Iceland, stranded passengers have run out of patience and they're taking it out on each other.

"Yesterday it was clear, who ever shouted the loudest was getting through," said Steve Downes from England.

And the frustration was also taken out on ticket agents.

Police are now permanently stationed at the British Airways counters at the airlines request.

"Yesterday there was a big riot down at the front," said Peter Rowsell from England.

Passengers are accusing others of line jumping and skirting the system British Airways has set up. Priority is supposed to be given to passengers who've been waiting the longest. Travelers are accusing the airline of greasing the squeaky wheel.

"They're claiming things like medical emergency and getting hysterical," said Dudley Miles from England.

Emotions are running very high and they're taking a toll. Medics say they've had 10 percent more calls to the international terminal since the Europe-bound flights were canceled. The majority of emergencies are stress related like high blood pressure, nausea, and anxiety attacks.

But for those passengers lucky enough to make it out Thursday night, they're glad to be leaving all of this behind.

Most airlines have been able to get passengers who have been stranded since April 15 out on Thursday. Friday, they'll start working on those who have been at the airport since April 16 and maybe 17. That means it will take several more days before everyone is back home again.


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