Twelve times over three days, the same message came up on airport screens about what was supposed to be the man’s way home: flight canceled.
And Mike Sawa was back to trying again to find a flight that would take him the more than 600 miles from Minnesota to Greenwood.
Sawa visited his sister near Duluth on Jan. 2 to watch her children play hockey and go ice fishing. On Sunday, he began a three-day ordeal to get home.
His flight was scheduled to leave at 9 a.m. Sunday, about the time the winter storm hit central Indiana, coating it with snow and ice and dropping temperatures to well below zero.
Flight after flight was canceled. As flights out of Duluth canceled or filled up with people from canceled flights, Sawa formed a new plan. He hopped on a shuttle bus for a three-hour trip to Minneapolis, where he thought he’d have a better chance catching a flight to Indianapolis, he said.
But when he got there, he was stuck, waiting in line for flights. Again.
For three days the story was the same. Flight after flight was canceled.
Some travelers slept on vinyl mattresses at the airport, but Sawa took advantage of discounted rates on two nights at a nearby hotel. On Monday and Tuesday, he headed to the airport at 6 a.m., only to find out within a few hours that his afternoon flights were canceled.
Then he’d wait for about an hour per line to reschedule flights or get on standby lists with at least 150 other stranded travelers each time.
Sawa wasn’t the only Hoosier stranded.
“You ended up with new standby friends,” he said.
Airlines canceled at least 12 potential flights home, a decision met with the collective disappointment of the stranded travelers.
“There would be a group groan,” he said.
But people seemed accepting of each delay.
Finally, Sawa got a seat on a flight Tuesday and got home to Greenwood at nearly 7 p.m.
“I really missed my wife,” he said. “That was the worst part.”