Blizzard flight cancellations push toward 7,000
Tuesday, 28 December 2010 20:34

Nearly 7,000 flights have been canceled since Sunday as a result of the post-Christmas blizzard that blanketed much of the East Coast in snow.



But even though some flights have resumed at all East Coast airports, that number is expected to keep growing today. Airlines are still canceling flights today as they struggle to get their aircraft and crews back into position for normal operations.

"(F)or many passengers the [airport] reopenings were only a first step," The New York Times writes. The paper adds: "Tens of thousands had to rebook flights on planes whose seats were already scarce because of the holidays. A full resumption of operations thus appeared to be days away."

Adding to the mess: Bloomberg News reports that weather service Accuweather warned strong winds threaten to blow snow into drifts, possibly making it difficult for airports to keep runways clear.

"If you're flying in and out of New York or even Boston, you stand a very good chance of your flight being canceled and not being re-accommodated for days," David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, says to the Times.

"This is a bad time for a blizzard to hit the East Coast," airline consultant Darryl Jenkins surmises to AP.

The AP says "at least" 3,800 U.S. flights were canceled Sunday, followed by another 3,100 Monday. Dozens more have already been reported Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal says "the storm showed how little margin for error exists in the U.S. air-transport system, with airlines trying to keep flights as full as possible. In many cases, carriers try to precancel flights before a storm so their customers don't come to the airport and end up camping there. Early cancellations also help preserve planes and crews that can be ready once the worst is over."

Regardless, the air-travel meltdown will deliver a blow to the airlines, too, says analyst Jenkins. AP writes "he said it will be difficult for the airlines to accommodate all the stranded travelers in the New York area quickly enough, and some may abandon their travel plans."

Dahlman Rose & Co. analyst Helane Becker estimates the storm-related disruptions will cost carriers a collective $100 million. However, she says she thinks many of the affected fliers will try to rebook. "(I)t's a holiday and people have to get home," she's quoted as saying by AP.

And there was at least a glimmer of hope for those hoping to get to their destinations. Some airlines say they hoped to add additional flights to their schedules to help clear the backlog of stranded passengers.

AirTran, for example, "planned to operate additional flights out of LaGuardia, Boston's Logan Airport and White Plains Westchester County Airport" today, according to CNN.

(USA Today)

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