Winter storm hits United States, threatens to disrupt holiday travel plans
Over 4,400 flights were canceled over a two-day period as a violent winter storm battered the United States, coinciding with the start of a holiday season that some are predicting could be the busiest ever.
According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, more than 2,350 U.S. flights were canceled Thursday and another 2,120 flights canceled for Friday, while Amtrak passenger rail canceled dozens of trains through Christmas and halted holiday travel for tens of thousands.
Another 8,450 flights were delayed Thursday – including more than a third of those operated by American Airlines AAL.O, United Airlines UAL.O and Southwest Airlines LUV.N.
Southwest canceled 865 flights on Thursday, about a fifth of all scheduled flights, and had already canceled another 550 for Friday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday the winter storm brought snowstorm conditions to the Midwest, with Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Delta Air Lines DAL.N, which canceled 140 flights out of 4,400 on Thursday and 90 on Friday via FlightAware, warned that “additional cancellations will be required on Friday as the storm continues to impact operations in Detroit and the Northeast.”
As of Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET (0030 GMT), 25% of flights departing Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and 37% of flights departing Chicago Midway were canceled, while 27% of flights departing Denver had been cancelled.
Amtrak said it canceled several dozen scheduled Midwest train services through Christmas, including trains in Michigan, Illinois and Missouri and trains between New York and Chicago, due to weather conditions.
Brandon Mattis, 24, was at New York’s La Guardia Airport trying to get to Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate the Christmas party with the rest of his family. His flight was canceled, he said.
“We try to search on our phones. Find other routes. We might even take a bus from here to Atlanta, which will take us about 21 hours. So this is really cumbersome. But we can do anything to get it because (is) what we’re going to do.”
In the seven days ended Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration said it screened nearly 16.2 million passengers, down slightly from the 16.5 million screened in the same period in 2019 before the COVID pandemic.
Last year’s holiday season was marred by an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights.
US airlines announced earlier this week that they were waiving rebooking fees and fare differentials for passengers in a number of affected areas.