Unplanned remote work and a trip to the aquarium: Passengers scramble after flight cancellations

When Breauna Reeves was packing for her trip to visit family in Aurora, Colorado, her work computer didn't make the cut. The 23-year-old traveled from Dallas, where she lives, to celebrate her younger sister's 14th birthday, and only planned to spend the weekend there.

But as winter weather pummeled large parts of the United States, with an arctic cold front stretching from Texas to the East Coast, her short trip was extended indefinitely. "We weren't supposed to be working remotely and, obviously, I didn't plan on this happening," Reeves, who works in accounts payable for a headlight distributor, told USA TODAY.

Her Frontier Airlines flight to Dallas was canceled Monday, and the next available nonstop flight with the airline was not until Wednesday night. Reeves canceled the reservation and rebooked a Tuesday flight with United Airlines, using her great aunt's points with the airline to partially pay for it, only to have that canceled as well.

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Reeves is hardly alone. Many travelers' plans were upended as airlines canceled over 1,100 U.S. flights Monday and more than 1,700 flights Tuesday, and delayed thousands more. Some airports in Texas and New York issued ground stops due to the wintry weather, and airlines issued waivers for impacted passengers.

This week's cancellations come after a winter storm disrupted flights last week, and follows major disruptions to air travel over the winter in December, culminating in Southwest Airlines cancelling nearly 17,000 flights in the last 10 days of December.

One traveler's delay is another's day trip

Legion Ambrose flew from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Dallas Tuesday morning on his way to visit his father and sister in Tampa, Florida, for a week-long trip. But after arriving, the second leg of the 19-year-old college student's Southwest flight was canceled and he and his fellow passengers had to deplane.

After visiting the customer service desk, the airline booked him – at no charge – on another flight that would not leave until around 9:30 p.m.

"At first, I was genuinely very aggravated, I won't lie," Ambrose said. "It was kind of frustrating because I wanted to go to Florida as soon as possible."

But he decided to take advantage of his extra time in Texas. Having never been to Dallas, he left the airport to see the sights, taking an Uber to the aquarium and grabbing a bite at a pizza restaurant.

"Cars are a lot slower than usual because it is a little bit icy on the road, but nothing too bad," he said.

What am I owed if my flight is delayed or canceled?

If an airline cancels your flight for any reason, the Department of Transportation requires them to offer a refund to all affected passengers, even those who bought a nonrefundable ticket.

Policies around delays, however, are set by individual carriers.

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The DOT launched an interactive dashboard last year that allows travelers to find out exactly what they're owed depending on their airline.

Reeves was able to stay with her family and use her parents' personal computer for work, and is tentatively scheduled to leave on Wednesday, but is wary of her newest flight's prospects.

"I'm just grateful that I can work remotely and catch meetings from here in Colorado, but it is definitely stressful to stay somewhere three to four days longer than you planned on," she said.

Contributing: Zach Wichter and Eve Chen, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canceled flights amid winter weather leave passengers stuck mid-trip