SEATTLE -- The Pacific Northwest began recovering from a spate
of severe storms that left holiday travelers stranded, closed major
roads and forced many travel agencies to suspend operations
"Just about all of this city [was shut down], except for
Starbucks," said an employee of the Seattle-King County Convention
and Visitors Bureau.
Seattle-Tacoma Airport was among the most affected
transportation facilities, having cut its service to about a
quarter of its capacity during the stormy holiday week.
Rachel Garson, a spokeswoman for the airport, said it now is
operating about 80% of flights.
Travel agents, meanwhile, worked to get clients on flights for
previously planned vacations.
"It's recovery work," Gina Main of Olympus Travel in Tacoma,
"We've had a lot of people stuck, some at the airport for two
days when nothing was able to get out. When flights were able to
get out, there were not a lot of empty seats."
Some clients who could not make it to the airport because of
closed highways chose to postpone their vacations until the weather
Agents worked with airlines, which waived rebooking fees to
accommodate clients, she said.
Alan Boyce of Global Express in Edmonds, Wash., said that, as
the weather worsened, he sent his staff home early two days and
kept the agency open by himself, even through a brief power
He fielded phone calls from frustrated travelers stuck at home
or at airports, rebooking them on later flights.
Travel Navigators in Everett, Wash., closed for two-and-a-half
days because of the weather and reopened Dec. 30 with its full
staff, which was busy with phone calls from clients who never got
to take their post-holiday trips.
"We're rebooking people who are wondering what to do because
their flights and packages were canceled," agent Linda Kemper
"A lot of them want to know how to apply for refunds or how to
get their luggage back after they checked it in because they were
on standby for flights that never left."
Operators also had their share of extra work -- and lost
Sunmakers, for example, said it was shut down for one-and-a-half
days as a result of the storms.
"We've got long phone holds," Bill Anderson, senior vice
president of Sunmakers, said.
"We may have had a big loss of revenue, but travel agents were
not working on those days either, and a lot are calling today."
He predicted that the cold, snowy blast -- by some accounts the
worst winter storm in the Northwest in 70 years -- will boost
bookings to warm-weather destinations, particularly Hawaii, where
attractive air fares are available.
At Holland America-Westours, also in Seattle, the reservations
department was cut to half its strength as a result of the
Although a skeleton crew was scheduled to work during one of the
storms, the firm had to shut down completely.
On Dec. 30, the company used its Gray Line subsidiary to run
buses to pick up employees from park-and-ride lots and take them
home in the evening; 75% to 80% of reservations agents made it to
"We're also making full use of our 10 people who are
telecommuters -- res agents who work from home," said a company
"We want agents across the country to know that we appreciate
their understanding of the situation," which resulted in long
telephone hold periods, she said.