Exodus: Leaving Hollywood, er, DC

Inauguration visitors head home, fill Reagan National

WASHINGTON -- Inauguration watchers were prepared for facing ridiculous crowds at the National Mall on Tuesday, but how many planned properly for their Wednesday departures?

Long lines to check-in and pass through security reportedly led to many people missing flights at Reagan National Airport Wednesday morning. The lines began forming early, just like those at the Mall for the inauguration.

Alexander Hernandez, 22, of Portage, Ind., spent the night at the airport. He and others slept on top of heating vents and chairs. But when he woke up at 7 a.m., lines already were snaking through the terminal.

"It was ridiculous. It just kept going," he said of the lines. "I'm assuming everyone was trying to get out of here."

Some travelers complained about how slowly the lines were moving. Others said that after braving the cold weather on Mall the day before, they were happy to be waiting indoors.

US Airways, which carries about 50 percent of the traffic out of Reagan National, was hit much harder than the other airlines. Airline spokesman Morgan Durrant said they added more flights to some routes out of all three area airports and used some larger airplanes, but the airline conceded that mistakes were made and it's not like the inauguration was surprise.

The airline waved booking fees and, as both a gesture of goodwill and a way to speed things up, waved bag fees. The amount of baggage being handled was a big part of the delays, according to the airline.

Texan Jason Carlson spent hours in line waiting for Barack Obama's inauguration and found himself backed up in yet another line the day after -- waiting to get out of town. At least this time he wasn't shivering.

"After waiting nine hours in the Mall yesterday in the cold, this is nothing," the 30-year-old Carlson said while standing in an extended security line at Reagan National Airport. "After that wait, this is convenient and warm."

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum, Md., projected 35,000 passengers would be leaving the airport Wednesday. Many of those people were in town for the inauguration, according to Jonathan Dean, an airport spokesman.

"The airport has seen a lot of excited travelers, although many of them seem tired," Dean said. "I suspect it's been an exciting and busy time in Washington for these customers."

At the Southwest Airlines ticketing gate, red, white and blue balloons and American flags greeted travelers. The lines at Southwest and Delta were filled with large groups of middle and high school students who traveled to view the historic swearing-in ceremony.

Amtrak officials said trains out of Union Station were sold out for much of the day.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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