Passengers voice frustration at airport delays

Passengers waiting for flight information Thursday night (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- While the Charleston International Airport deals with problems with an integral part of their system, passengers were left wondering what was going on and initially were not{}getting all of the answers.

Jill Rigsby, a delayed passenger who spent the night at the airport, works in Sumter and is trying to fly home to her family in Chicago for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"We heard whispers that there was something actually wrong with the radar system which makes a difference because the airlines won't compensate for a hotel or plane tickets when it is weather so there were several of us who slept here last night and the airport offered no assistance," she said. "I was very disappointed. I love Charleston airport but I might think twice before leaving out of here again."

Flights across the departure and arrival boards were either canceled or delayed Thursday night and the problems continued into Friday morning.

"I felt like a homeless person and it was scary," Rigsby said. "I think they could have done a lot more to compensate people."

Airline reps were saying it was the weather to blame for the delays, but it wasn't until later that passengers learned about the malfunctioning navigational equipment.

According to airport officials, their VOR wasn't working properly. The VOR is a short-range radio navigation system that allows aircraft to determine where they are located in relation to the airport. It also allows the flight crew to stay on course by receiving a series of beacons from the ground.

That, coupled with the fog, led to the closing of the airport.{}

"I think they could have told the truth and maybe we would have made other plans and get another flight out of a different airport instead of standing here waiting and thinking it's just the weather, it's going to lift," said Rigsby. "If they had been more truthful I think we would have been a lot happier."

Passenger Kayla Boettger had a similar story Friday night.

"I've been here since 3:30 p.m. and my flight was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and they canceled it probably about two hours before it was scheduled to board. I've heard fog. I've heard something about 20 percent visibility for the flights. I've heard a lot of different things from people," she said. "I'm from Myrtle Beach so I'm two hours away from home and I had friends take me here and they're not able to get back right now so now I'm sitting in the airport by myself hours later and I'm not sure when they're going to get here...I'm tired, I'm hungry and everything's closed so it's (patience) running thin but trying to be understanding I guess at the same time."

Some took their frustrations out on social media, blasting airport personnel for not telling people the whole truth and wasting hours of their time.

"At least there was a real reason Steve's flight got rerouted," Lauren{}said in a{}Facebook post. "But curse them all for not telling me there was a real issue the first, second, or third time I waited in line for 30-45 minutes to ask about what was going on before driving an hour and a half to go pick him up. If they would've told me the first time, I could've been waiting in Columbia by the time he landed and we would've been back in time for me to make dinner and watch a movie instead of at 11:00{}p.m. when I had to be up by 6 a.m."

Her boyfriend, Steve, flew in for the holidays all the way from Scotland.

"It took him longer to get from Newark to Chuck then it did for him to fly across the Atlantic Ocean," she said.

As of Friday morning, the airport was back open and running, but very slow. Flights have landed and taken off but there are major delays and a lot of frustrated passengers. Many opted to drive into Charleston instead."We were supposed to arrive here at 5:30 this (Thursday) evening and we were about 10 minutes from landing and the captain came on and said there's less than 300 feet visibility. Once in a blue moon this happens he said, so we have to go back to Charlotte. At that point we might make another run back or we might get you off the plane but as soon as we got there they said you're getting off the plane," said Steve Forgione. "So we got back to Charlotte, customer service said there's no flights until tomorrow, the guy I was sitting next to actually was very nice to offer us - he had a gotten a rental car as soon as we landed cause he knew - he's been through this before. So he said 'Do you guys want to share a ride? Come on with me' and here we are three and a half hours after the fact. We should have been here at 5:30 so what is it 11:00? Southern hospitality."According to Forgione, the airline told him he would not get his money back because of the fog."Well they said, weather related you don't get reimbursed and you don't get a hotel. So rather than deal with that, we had to be where we had to be so if the guy didn't rent a car we were going to rent a car cause we found it was only about a three and a half run. So we said we were going to do it, so here we go. So here we are."

According to airport officials Friday afternoon, flight operations are "slowly catching up" and all of their equipment is fully operational.

To check on the status of your flight, click here.