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A traveler at Cleveland Hopkins Airport Sunday...


A traveler at Cleveland Hopkins Airport Sunday was assured by the departure board that his 5:55 p.m. USAir flight to Baltimore was on time. Catch 22 was that it had to get to Cleveland from Baltimore first. It did, only three hours late. By 8:30 p.m., the traveler was on the plane.

Catch 23 was that though cleared for take-off, it stayed put because a disabled plane was blocking the BWI runway. "I'm not allowed to tell you what airline," the captain said on the intercom, "but wouldn't you know it would be Continental?"

He said USAir would not let him take off with a risk of having to circle over BWI, because of the fuel cost. Later, he said the company was assured the runway would be cleared and ordered him to fly, just as soon as he took on extra fuel.

The plane, with all the standbys taken on and empty seats besides, arrived at BWI after 11 p.m., one of the few flights to an eastern airport over the weekend. Snow and ice in the bridge from gate to plane was a problem at both Cleveland and Baltimore. The pilot confided en route that the crew had been cooped up in a Baltimore hotel for two days, unable to walk outside because sidewalks weren't cleared.

Cleveland Hopkins Airport was sprinkled with people at a distance from each other, each an island of brooding anxiety. BWI was a party, jammed with people past caring, resigned to the experience of their lives. Some were out for the night. There was a pizza party in one bar, a hurricane party in another.

Cars in the parking lot were snowed in. Two bobcats (tiny tractors) with snow plows and chains were at beck and call, their drivers courteous and helpful. The traveler left the lot by a gate with no toll; the management just seemed to want him to leave. By midnight, the traveler was on the B-W Parkway.

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