Charlotte airport returning to normal after thousands of passengers were stranded

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Katherine Johnson said she was the only passenger on her American Airlines flight into Charlotte on Saturday.

She said her flight from White Plains, New York was delayed seven hours.

She was unaware that thousands of people flying on a regional American Airlines carrier, American Eagle, were stranded the day before.

“I had my own private plane here, so it worked out great for me,” she said. "All of them (the seats), but the pilot seat and assistant's seat (were empty)."

Flight officials said 120 flights were grounded Thursday out of Charlotte because of a computer glitch.

Dozens of passengers were forced to sleep on the ground. Others were glued to their phones, hoping to find a way home.

American Airlines officials said the technical problem that forced one of its regional carriers to cancel hundreds of flights has been resolved.

The company statement said American's PSA Airlines carrier canceled 275 flights Thursday and around 400 flights Friday because of the technical issue. Travel through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport has been particularly affected, where nearly half of PSA's Friday flights were canceled.

Airline officials said the problem with a system that affects crew scheduling and dispatch operations was resolved and service was expected to resume at noon Friday, but the ripple effect from the initial cancellations continued into Saturday.

Airline officials said it's working to accommodate passengers on American flights and other regional carriers.

There were no problems with American Airlines itself or other regional carriers.

"I was a bit surprised, but then it made a lot more sense why the computer systems and why planes were moving very slow,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she had a first-class experience, but that wasn’t the case for everyone.

Johnson said she hopes the airline makes sure this doesn't happen again.

"I would just like to know what they're doing to fix it,” she said.

PSA apologized for the disruption, but it is still unclear what caused the glitch.

But, even though the glitch is fixed, it took many days, and for some passengers, days before they  boarded their planes.

“It’s chaotic right now,” traveler Rachel Boye said Friday afternoon. “Walking in -- all the crazy lines. I was really surprised that there were so many people here.”

Thousands of passengers were stranded Thursday night into Friday morning after all PSA flights were canceled at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport Thursday night due to a technical issue, airline officials said.

We first updated WSOCTV news app users with a notification just after 8:40 p.m. Thursday to let travelers and their families know about the chaos at the airport.

Download the WSOCTV news app for your smartphone and get updates on this developing story as they come in.

American Airlines tweeted to a stranded passenger, “Our partner PSA Airlines is experiencing a technical issue and all flights are canceled. The first available is (Friday) evening at 5:54 p.m.”

On Thursday night, a spokeswoman for American Airlines said there was no timeline for when the issue will be resolved.

Eyewitness News saw frustrated and tired travelers stuck at the airport all night, including a school group from Ohio sleeping on the floor that had been stranded for more than six hours.

Others have friends and family driving upward of eight hours to pick them up.

Some travelers tried to make the best of the tough situation. A group of stranded musicians from Marshall University in West Virginia picked up their guitars to try to help ease the stress for other frustrated passengers.

"I haven't slept since we woke up in Brazil on Thursday," one of the band members said. Mark Barber asked, "So, how are you making it?" He responded, "Adrenaline, having to sprint between flights and just I don't know, at this point I haven't had coffee so I really don't know."

American Airlines released the following statement to Channel 9:

"PSA Airlines, an American Airlines regional carrier, experienced a technical issue that has caused them to cancel their flights for the remainder of the evening. The total number of canceled flights is approximately 275. (About 120 of those in Charlotte) 

"Our team, in coordination with PSA, is working hard to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and take care of our customers by accommodating them on mainline flights or other regional carriers.

"We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we are sorry for the trouble this caused. Our customer relations team will be reaching out to all of those who have been impacted by this issue.

"Customers are encouraged to check their flight status on the American Airlines app or at aa.com before heading to the airport."

Car rental companies told Channel 9's Mark Barber that they sold out of vehicles overnight. Some companies were trying to bring in extra vehicles Thursday night to accommodate passengers.

A family tried to rent a car from four different companies, but none were available after the car they reserved was given to someone else.

“We had a reservation for a car 5 miles from here. But once we got here, we went to go there to get the car, but the airport had taken our car and brought it here for other people,” one family member told Channel 9.

Flyers were seen camping out wherever they could and Channel 9 saw crews piling up hundreds of suitcases in the baggage claim area.

American Airlines officials said they were working to find hotel accommodations for those stranded and are trying to make sure luggage isn't lost.

Channel 9 has continued to ask American Airlines why this happened, but the company still has not given passengers or Channel 9 reporters any explanation.

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