Airlines cancel 17,000 flights due to harsh winter weather, but disruptions are down

Aircraft deicing at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.


Flight cancellations on Monday eased even further, but disruptions due to severe winter weather in the US persisted into the late Christmas weekend.

Airlines have canceled more than 17,000 flights to the U.S. since Wednesday, according to FlightAware, as storms brought snow, ice, strong winds and extreme cold across the country, disrupting air travel from coast to coast. These conditions slowed down the work of the ground crews as they faced difficult conditions at the airports.

Carriers will likely detail disruption costs when they report results next month, if not sooner.

southwestern airlines hit particularly hard by winter storms during the holiday travel season, along with other issues including unexpected fog in San Diego and staff shortages at a fuel supplier in Denver, the carrier’s chief operating officer told staff.

According to Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson, Southwest has been actively canceling many flights to stabilize its operations. Between Wednesday and Saturday, about a quarter of Southwest flights were canceled and two-thirds delayed, according to FlightAware.

The airline apologized to employees for the chaos that saw many struggle to get crew scheduling services, making it difficult to reassign or make other changes or get hotel rooms. Southwest also offered extra pay for flight attendants working on public holidays.

“Part of what we’re suffering from is a lack of tools,” Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said in an address to staff on Sunday. “We talked a lot about the modernization of production and the need for this. Crew planning is one area we need to invest in. We need to be able to find solutions faster.”

Airlines often cancel flights in advance during bad weather to avoid the loss of aircraft, crew and customers, which can make it difficult to recover from a storm.

Carriers also scheduled smaller schedules around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day compared to the days leading up to the holidays, making it harder for them to rebook travelers on other flights, and bookings skyrocketed.

Passengers check in at the Delta counter at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus, Michigan on December 22, 2022.

Jeff Kowalski | AFP | Getty Images

More than 1,700 flights were canceled and 2,200 more delayed on Monday, compared to nearly 3,200 canceled flights and 7,700 delayed flights in the US on Sunday.

Delta Air Lines, american airlines, United Airlines, Jetblue Airways and Alaska Airlines were among other carriers affected by the bad weather.

An American Airlines spokesperson said “the vast majority of our customers affected by flight cancellations have been able to be reaccommodated.”

However, passengers also faced baggage delays.

Bill Weaver, 41, said he, his wife and five children were traveling from Wichita, Kansas to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to fly to Cancun on Friday after their connecting flight to the American Airlines hub was canceled. . An American Airlines flight to Cancun arrived on time, but their luggage didn’t arrive in Cancun until Monday and wasn’t delivered to their hotel by mid-morning, so they had to spend hundreds of dollars buying clothes and other essentials. at their hotel.

Weaver, who sells software, said he used to travel a lot.

“I’m used to missing bags and stuff happens, but this is by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Severe cold and strong winds have slowed down ground operations at dozens of airports. According to FlightAware, more than half of US airline flights arrived late Thursday through Saturday, with an average delay of 81 minutes.

“Temperatures have dropped so low that it has affected our equipment and infrastructure, from frozen toilet systems and fuel hoses to broken tow hitches,” United Airlines said in a message to pilots on Saturday. “Pilots encountered frozen locks while attempting to re-enter the jet bridge after a bypass.”

The FAA said it had to evacuate its tower at New Jersey’s United Hub Newark Liberty International Airport due to a leak on Saturday.

JetBlue, meanwhile, offered triple pay to flight attendants to pick up tickets on Christmas Eve due to staffing shortages.

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