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With Thanksgiving less than one week away, yesterday's strike of American Airlines flight attendants could pose serious problems for students' vacation plans. And with the 21,000 union workers promising to remain off the job for 11 days, it's likely that many will have to wade through a labyrinth of reservation clerks and voice-mail systems to secure a ticket back home. American is the nation's largest domestic carrier, serving over 200 U.S. cities, including hubs such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago. Dallas native Brian Clack said last night that his plans to fly standby on Tuesday will have to be changed. He said his seat will probably be shifted to a Delta flight, but he doesn't expect any major complications. "Hopefully something will work out and I'll get home," said Clack, a Wharton freshman. "I haven't put too much thought into it." Foresight on the part of Brian Rosen's father has guaranteed the College freshman a flight home. Rosen said his father, in preparation for the strike, purchased tickets for use at any time on Delta Airlines. "He bought them three weeks ago and I can use them whenever I want," Rosen said. But most travelers are not as prepared as Rosen – and now will have to grapple with unanticipated problems. A call to American's airport desk found a quick-talking representative, obviously deluged with consumer calls and questions. "I really can't talk right now," he said. He then hung up. American Airlines officials expressed confidence yesterday that the airline will find a way for passengers to reach their destinations. At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan told the Associated Press that the airline would try to get customers on other airlines if no American flights were available. Asked how many flights were affected, she had no specifics but said: ''I liken the situation at O'Hare to a bad snow day.'' But passengers at some airports trying to get on American planes were completely stymied, the AP reported. In Oklahoma City, American canceled its first four scheduled flights. In Atlanta, an 8:31 a.m. flight to Chicago was canceled, but four other flights took off on schedule after the strike began. American has 24 daily departures from the city. This is the largest system-wide strike since Eastern Airlines machinists rallied for more benefits in 1989. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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