Harvey leaves airline passengers stranded across country

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HOUSTON -- Both of Houston’s airports remain closed until further notice, due to the massive amounts of water Harvey has dumped on the city. Those closures resulted in hundreds of stranded passengers, looking for a way out of those airports. But 300 of them received a golden ticket and made their way out to Chicago, late last night, on a special United Airlines flight.

"Just to see disaster on the roads," said Sonia Agard, who flew in from Houston. "Babies in cars. Families can’t go home or move. They have to actually walk out in the rain and leave their car stalled, I was just very emotional. The fact that I can’t step out to help. I felt helpless. Like I want to help, but what could we do? I was just crying all the way.”

Agard was hoping to be in Cancun by now to celebrate her 44th birthday. Her flight out of Houston was canceled so she tried to find her way around the ground in the city, where few restaurants or hotels had power. She eventually lucked out by getting onto United flight 2761 and got back to Chicago.

A United spokesperson says the plane originated as a so-called relief flight from Chicago to Houston, bringing United employees to Houston's airport to help with the passengers stranded there. United says it then saw an opportunity to help customers get home, so they received special permission from the FAA to fly back. Passengers on other airlines were even given permission to take the United flight home.

"I was quite shocked when I got on the plane because a lot of seats were empty, especially in business class and economy plus, and I thought, come on!" said Laura Deben, who also arrived on the flight.

Southwest Airlines did something similar yesterday, moving 500 passengers out of Houston's Hobby airport to Dallas.  Meanwhile, several dozen flights are canceled in and out of O'Hare and Midway airports, thanks to Harvey.