CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An internal memo from a US Airways subsidiary obtained Thursday splits the blame for long delays during Saturday’s snowstorm between air traffic controllers and Charlotte Douglas International Airport personnel.
The memo, first obtained by Observer news partner WCNC-TV, described the weekend’s events as a “nightmare.” Some planes were stuck on the tarmac for hours and several hundred passengers spent the night in the terminal after missing connecting flights.
“Since then, much research has been done to identify the failures that occurred and the related causes,” said the memo from PSA Airlines, which flies as US Airways Express.
One of the main reasons for the delays, according to the memo, were air traffic controllers not posting a ground stop early enough to stop flights as snow rolled. The other reason: a “communications breakdown” between airport personnel and air traffic control about deicing and snow removal.
Federal transportation officials have said they will look into the delays. US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said the airline doesn’t have any complaints about the airport’s de-icing.
“US Airways has found the de-icing operations performed by the city to be effective and efficient in meeting our operational needs,” she said. “The internal memo was not a comprehensive assessment of the events that affected our operation at CLT Saturday night. It was intended to thank our crews for their hard work and taking care of our customers during a challenging situation.”
Thursday morning, Charlotte aviation director Jerry Orr denied there was any communication breakdown that caused delays removing ice from planes.
“Ice is very difficult to deal with,” Orr said. He said de-icing times were about six to seven minutes per plane early Saturday, but lengthened to between 12 and 13 minutes in the afternoon and evening. The sudden snow, combined with earlier precipitation that refroze on planes, meant it took longer to clean each plane, Orr said.
The airport took over de-icing operations from US Airways in 2010, a move that Orr said was designed to increase efficiency. Charlotte Douglas contracts with Consolidated Deicing Services, a New Hampshire-based company, for de-icing. Last year, the airport paid more than $98,000 to CDS for the contract.