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Unlucky traveler stranded again

By Allan Chernoff, CNN Senior Correspondent
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Unlucky traveler stranded again
  • Antonio Christopher of London dreamed of the warm Caribbean island of St. Kitts
  • But his journey turned into a travel nightmare because of winter storms
  • Since he embarked on his trip, Christopher has spent five nights in airports

(CNN) -- Antonio Christopher, who has slept overnight at four airports since setting out to a wedding in St. Kitts in December, can't seem to beat the snow.

Trying to return home to London from the Caribbean island, Christopher got stuck Wednesday night at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport as his connecting flight was canceled, making it the fifth time he's slept in an airport since his odyssey began.

"I can't believe it. I didn't think it would be possible, but here I am," Christopher said Thursday morning after a familiar but not very comfortable night.

Christopher intentionally delayed his return from St. Kitts, expecting that a late January departure would ensure his swift return after multiple encounters with snowstorms repeatedly delayed his arrival in the Caribbean. Call him the snowman or better yet, the snowed-in man.

His journey began December 20. The trip to St. Kitts should have taken three flights and less than 24 hours. It ended up requiring eight days from the moment Christopher, a theology professor, first left his home, suitcase in hand, until he finally arrived at Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport in St. Kitts.

Hopefully, it won't take him that long to get home.

The first leg of Christopher's itinerary, London to New York, was postponed. He decided to stay overnight at Heathrow Airport, expecting to catch a flight the following morning.

"I knew I had to get to the islands. I said, 'I could rough it for one night,' not thinking I would have to do it at another airport," said Christopher, 50.

But, after sleeping on the floor at Heathrow, the determined traveler discovered the monster storm had forced American Airlines to cancel its schedule. The earliest available departure date was December 26. He retreated home to celebrate Christmas in London rather than on the Caribbean sand.

The morning after Christmas, his flight departed London, only to be greeted by a massive snowstorm when it arrived at New York's Kennedy Airport.

New York airports were shut down, and Christopher's flight from Kennedy to Miami was canceled. With snow blanketing New York and the city at a standstill, Christopher had nowhere to go and spent the night sleeping on the floor at Kennedy.

Determined to get to his cousin Barry's wedding, Christopher called his travel agent in London, who arranged for the next available American flight out of New York. The flight was set to leave LaGuardia Airport the following day, December 27.

"If it weren't for the wedding, I think I would have gone back. I said, 'I'm almost there. Let me keep going.' I promised I would be there," Christopher recalled.

He flagged a taxi in the storm for the 12-mile ride north to the smaller LaGuardia.

Rather than seek a hotel room in the storm, Christopher decided again to rough it at the airport to ensure he'd be apprised of the latest flight schedule. LaGuardia provided a pleasant surprise that night: cots, blankets and pillows for the hundreds of stranded travelers.

"It's the Hotel LaGuardia," joked Thomas Bosco, the airport's general manager.

The next evening, Christopher finally left the snow behind, jetting south to Miami. But making it to St. Kitts meant yet another evening at an airport since his flight from Miami wasn't scheduled to depart until the following morning.

"I said, 'You know what, I've done three days already. I'll do another one,' " Christopher said.

Four nights. Four airports. One stiff back.

"The heat of St. Kitts took care of it in two days' time," Christopher said after arriving on the Caribbean island.

His cousin got married on New Year's Eve, honeymooned on St. Kitts and went home.

But Christopher stayed on the island because his January 12 return flight was canceled due to another storm that enveloped the East Coast.

"We don't challenge the power of Mother Nature when it comes to safe operations," said American spokesman Ned Raynolds.

Christopher though suspects Mother Nature has it in for him.

"I am fully convinced that this blizzard is following me around," he said.

Christopher had the option of flying out January 18 but decided to stay on until Wednesday, hoping to avoid the snow entirely.

"I don't want to experience going home what I experienced coming in," he said.

No such luck for Christopher.