Comair (search) canceled all its 1,100 flights on Saturday because computer problems knocked out its system that manages flight assignments, a spokesman said.
Nick Miller, a spokesman for the Delta (search) subsidiary based at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Regional Airport, said the cancellations affected 30,000 travelers in 118 cities.
"It's the worst Christmas I've ever experienced," said Guy Lobuono, who with his wife had been trying since Thursday to get from the Cincinnati airport to Wisconsin to visit their daughter's family. "We've missed Christmas Eve. We've missed Christmas."
Miller said the company was trying to put travelers on Delta flights. Crews were working to see how many flights Comair could handle Sunday, but nothing was definite.
"It's been a very busy holiday season and we deeply regret this problem for our customers," Miller said.
Miller said the problem was triggered in part by flights canceled Thursday and Friday because of bad weather.
"There was a cumulative effect with the canceled flights and trying to get crew assigned that caused the system to be overwhelmed," he said. "It just stopped operating."
Ohio was just beginning to recover from a paralyzing winter storm that socked the state Wednesday and Thursday. Comair canceled most of its Thursday flights after it ran critically low on de-icer fluid. Half the airline's flights out of the Cincinnati airport Friday also were canceled.
Guy and Claire Lobuono, of Colerain Township near Cincinnati, spent five hours standing in a ticket line Thursday, only to find out their flight was canceled. Their flight was canceled again Friday, and they spent Christmas Eve at an airport hotel eating potato chips out of a vending machine because no restaurants were open.
"I know it's bad weather, but I just think it's disorganized," Lobuono said gloomily, as his wife stood in line to check on other options.