With hundreds of flights out of Baltimore cancelled since the holiday weekend, travelers with plans to fly all over the country and across the world have landed at a far less desirable destination: a strip of airport hotels just north of the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Lisa Grove, 53, was expecting to be on day three of a vacation in Puerto Rico with her husband. But after multiple cancelled flights, Grove was instead spending Tuesday afternoon scrolling on her phone in the empty dining area at the La Quinta Inn & Suites off of W. Nursery Road in Linthicum Heights.

Grove, who arrived in Baltimore on Christmas Day for what was supposed to be a short layover from Detroit, said that when she first arrived at the hotel after learning the couple’s connecting flight was cancelled, all the tables in the carpeted, low-ceilinged dining room were full of other stranded travelers.

“At the beginning we were Chatty Cathy,” said Grove.

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The couple couldn’t even get a room at the fully booked hotel, and found accommodations at the Red Roof Inn around the corner instead.

But they stayed at the La Quinta until around midnight anyway, commiserating with other travelers over their airline horror stories. One traveler celebrating his birthday was dressed in a Santa suit handing out beers; groups of travelers bound for the same destination hatched escape plans, she recalled.

Grove and her husband joined in with a group of nearly 10 other travelers researching the cost of chartering a bus to Miami, where the couple could get a flight to Puerto Rico. Ultimately, the couple befriended another stranded Detroiter, and the three made a reservation to pick up a rental car the next morning to drive the nearly 16 hours to Miami together.

But by Monday, the novelty of the situation had worn off. It turned out the rental car office had no cars available. The flight the couple had been re-booked onto was cancelled. The $14 food voucher they’d received from Spirit Airlines barely made a dent in the bill they racked up at Chili’s, one of just a couple restaurants within walking distance.

“After the second day we were starting to get really pissed, because we’re thinking something should have been done by this time,” said Grove. The couple got a room at the La Quinta, but the Christmas night camaraderie had faded away. “People were clearing out, going to their rooms.”

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After another flight earlier Tuesday was cancelled, all the couple can do is hope that Wednesday’s scheduled trip gets them back home.

A man and a woman sit on the couch of an airport hotel with their luggage.
Lisa Miller, right, and Jeremiah Calkins were stuck at an airport hotel near BWI after their flight to Rochester, New York was rerouted to Baltimore. (Sophie Kasakove)

By Tuesday, many travelers at the airport hotels were going on day five of their travel tribulations. Lisa Miller, 34, and Jeremiah Calkins, 38, had departed from their home in Waco, Texas on Friday to spend Christmas with Calkins’ family in Rochester, New York. After a quick layover in Baltimore, the couple’s flight descended nearly to the tarmac in Rochester, before getting caught up in vigorous winds that forced the pilot to turn the plane back around to Baltimore.

“The plane was sideways and you could see the wings actually flapping like bird wings,” said Calkins. “So [the pilot] just picked it up and we pulled up out of there. It was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever been in.”

Instead, the couple celebrated Christmas from their hotel room at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel. Calkin’s family spoke with them via video from the celebrations, showing off his sister’s elaborate Christmas decorations and a table covered with plates of food.

On Tuesday, the couple had set up camp in a corner of the hotel lobby, surrounded by luggage, a takeout pizza box between them, waiting to head back to the airport for a rebooked flight that night.

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“You kind of look at it as an adventure, I guess,” said Miller. “We’ll get home eventually. Hopefully.”


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