Canceled flights on Fridays top 5,300, disrupting holiday travel

(CNN) — Winter weather continues to disrupt holiday travel across the United States on Friday, leaving travelers facing delays and cancellations during one of the busiest times of the year.

More than 5,300 Friday flights had already been canceled as of 7:40 p.m. ET, after nearly 2,700 cancellations on Thursday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.

Cancellations were highest Friday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia, Chicago O’Hare, Denver International and Detroit Metro Airport, according to FlightAware data. In Canada, Toronto topped flight cancellations.

In addition to the cancellations, there had been more than 9,100 delays as of 7:40 p.m. ET among the flights still departing.

For Saturday, over 570 flights have already been cancelled. But for Christmas Day, only 10 flights have been canceled so far.

New York’s Buffalo Niagara International Airport, hit by wind-whipped snow, had to suspend flights entirely.

“Buffalo Airport Airfield has closed due to hazardous weather conditions,” and all flights scheduled for the evening have been canceled, according to a tweet from the airport’s official Twitter account.

At airports in Cleveland and Grand Rapids, Michigan, more than 70% of flights have been canceled.

The ground stops

The Federal Aviation Administration posted ground stops Friday morning for flights bound for Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, American Airlines’ second-largest hub, and Reagan National Airport near Washington, DC, due to icing.

In the Pacific Northwest, FAA announcements showed that flights bound for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Portland International Airport were also under ground control Friday morning due to snow and ice.

The FAA says the large air pressure changes associated with this storm will trigger strong winds at airports from Boston down to Atlanta.

Airports in Chicago and Denver saw the bulk of cancellations and delays Thursday. Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Thursday recorded average delays of nearly three hours due to snow and ice.

Storm has bad timing

Airlines have issued winter weather waivers that allow passengers to rebook at no charge within a limited time period. Find links to airline waivers and more air travel strategies here.

The growing cancellations are making it harder for passengers racing against the clock and the weather to rebook and arrive in time for Christmas. Flights this year were already more crowded than they have been in the past — even before the storm disrupted travel schedules.

“We hear about how travel volume is still down, 5 or 10 percent, but what a lot of people may not have realized is that the number of flights in the sky is actually down more like 15 or 20 percent,” Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights told CNN.

“The planes that are actually flying are more full today than they were pre-pandemic. That’s why there aren’t as many empty seats to switch to if you find your flight is canceled or delayed,” Keyes said.

Train and bus traffic was also affected

Amtrak has also been forced to delay or cancel passenger service on some routes in the Midwest and Northeast.

Click here for information on disruptions to train traffic.

In its announcement, Amtrak said “customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will typically be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or on a different day.

“Amtrak will waive additional fees for customers who wish to change their reservation during the revised schedule by calling our reservation center at 1-800-USA-RAIL.”

Meanwhile, Greyhound, the largest provider of intercity bus service, issued a service alert Thursday night indicating that trips in the Midwest or upper Northeast may be canceled or canceled.

Greyhound said riders can call 1-833-233-8507 to reschedule.

The winter weather is also affecting service for regional bus company Jefferson Lines, which operates in 14 states.

In an alert posted on its website, the company said nearly 30 routes have been canceled for Friday, with some cancellations on Saturday and Sunday. Cities affected by the cancellations include Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Duluth and Kansas City.
Affected travelers can consult Bus Tracker or call 1-858-800-8898.

A traveller’s story

Shane Phillips told CNN he was going to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle to visit family, but when he woke up Friday morning, his Alaska Airlines flight had been canceled.

This would have been Phillips’ first time back to Washington state since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I would say they’re (his family) upset, but they’re the ones experiencing the crazy weather, so they understand,” he said.

Phillips says he feels mostly disappointed but not overly surprised. “I knew the weather was going to be bad, but I was hoping I’d get in before the freezing rain hit,” he added.

Phillips’ family lives about two hours north of Seattle, so if he had made it to the airport, he says he could have been stranded. “They completely shut down transit, so I’m not sure how I would have left the airport,” Phillips said.

Other airlines had flights available for Saturday, but Phillips said they cost $1,000 one-way, “which is just too much.”

Phillips says he’ll make the best of things — as he now plans to attend a friend’s party that he would have missed had he made it to Seattle.

Pete Muntean, Gregory Wallace, Rebekah Riess, Danielle Sills, Marnie Hunter, Ross Levitt, Dave Hennen, Paul P. Murphy, Carol Alvarado and Sara Smart contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *