More than 25 Southwest Florida International Airport flights to or from Fort Myers are canceled so far on Saturday to destinations such as New York, Newark and Boston. Travelers should check the airport's website or naplesnews.com today and during the weekend for updates on when flights resume.
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FORT MYERS — Many Southwest Florida passengers who were bound Saturday for Boston, New York and Toronto had another day to bask in the sun.
Six JetBlue flights out of Southwest Florida International Airport to Boston and New York were canceled Saturday, leaving 640 passengers to deal with delays due to the massive storm that dumped up to 3 feet of snow in New England.
Another dozen round-trip flights out of the Northeast that were bound for Fort Myers were canceled, according to JetBlue spokesman Rick Clark.
Early Saturday, passengers who couldn't reach their airline by phone to find out if their flight was canceled or delayed flocked to the airport to get updates and rebook their flights, according to Simone Behr, with the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau.
She and her volunteer staff had to find hotel rooms for many stranded passengers, at a time when hotels are enjoying a brisk tourism season.
"We must have helped 30 people today already," she said in the mid-afternoon Saturday. "That's a lot. Many were for the Canadian flights."
Air Canada has two daily flights to Toronto and one to Montreal, and she was told the flights are now booked until Tuesday. Officials at Air Canada couldn't be reached Saturday night.
Wayne Gauthier, from Ottawa, found out early that his 6 a.m. flight on Air Canada to Toronto was canceled and he was rebooked for a 9:45 p.m. flight.
"What are you going to do?" he said with a smile, arriving mid-afternoon at the Lee County airport. He had a laptop and was still wearing shorts, noting: "I'll change before getting on the plane."
Kim Follis, who lives in Calgary, gave up his rebooked seat on the late Toronto flight and will fly out Sunday.
"There was a lady who seemed pretty upset," he said, while waiting to check in for a room at the Hilton Garden Inn on Alico Road, only to learn the airline had booked him at another Hilton nearby. He was able to switch hotels.
Newark-bound passenger Donna Pleines, on a United flight, was a little dismayed her 6:40 p.m. flight wasn't canceled.
"I'd rather stay here," she said. "I don't want to deal with the snow."
She came to Fort Myers for a week's vacation with Robert Kachala, and he said they were lucky to be getting out, even when it means a two-hour drive home to Southbury, Conn., where they've been told there is 3 feet of snow.
"We plan to drive if the roads are open. It's possible we will have to stay overnight," Kachala said of staying in Newark.
Behr, with the visitors and convention bureau, said passengers who weren't flying out Saturday were prepared for the delay.
"The passengers stayed calm. Everybody had been following the storm," she said, adding that it's a different story when there's a cancellation due to airplane mechanical issues.
"It's a great place to be stranded in," she said of Southwest Florida. "They see the picture back North and say, 'This is OK.'"