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Airlines Ground 1,500 Flights As Storm Menaces Fliers

2:05 PM, Nov 7, 2012   |    comments
This screen shot of the NOAA weather alert map shows significant warnings for the northeast coastal states Wednesday afternoon (NOAA)
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Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

"Here we go again." That's likely to be a common refrain among air travelers this week as a new coastal storm is making a mess of air travel at some of the nation's busiest airports.

Airlines have already canceled more than 1,500 flights today (Nov. 7) and Thursday because of the new storm, according to flight-tracking company FlightAware. The company says 1,199 cancellations have been counted today with an additional 313 for tomorrow. Nearly half of grounded flights counted by FlightAware have come at Newark Liberty.

The spate of cancellations from the impending Nor'easter comes comes just a week after "superstorm" Sandy virtually shut down many of the same airports. That storm caused airlines to ground more than 20,000 flights during a 6-day period that began Oct. 27.

And, just like they did with Sandy, most big airlines are again waiving change fees for customers booked into cities likely to be affected by the storm. Generally, the weather waivers allow customers to make one change to their itinerary -- with restrictions -- with no fee.

As for flight operations, United Airlines - the nation's biggest carrier - has canceled 500 flights between noon Wednesday and noon Thursday as the mid-Atlantic braces for a strong "Nor'easter" winter storm. United's cancellations are mostly in the New York area -- including at its Newark hub -- but the effect will ripple to airports nationwide.

Delta, the USA's No. 2 airline, says it has canceled 150 flights today, with spokesman Morgan Durrant adding that the carrier is "monitoring conditions closely" as the storm develops. Delta says most of its cancellations are concentrated in New York -- where it has hubs at both LaGuardia and JFK -- and Philadelphia.

American, the third-biggest U.S. airline, will also see a significant disruption to its schedule. As of 10:30 a.m. ET, the airline had already axed 365 flights to and from mid-Atlantic airports over the next 24 hours.

"Due to severe weather projected for the Northeast this week, American Airlines and American Eagle are suspending operations on Nov. 7, in Philadelphia (PHL) at noon and at all New York-area airports by 3 p.m.," AA spokeswoman Andrea Huguely tells Today in the Sky. "Operations at these airports are expected to start up again the morning of Thursday, Nov. 8."

And, besides the 365 cancellations, Huguely warns customers that "additional delays and cancellations may occur as American resumes operations in New York and Philadelphia."

US Airways -- which operates one of its biggest hubs at Philadelphia -- had canceled a total of 93 mainline and regional flights because of the storm as of 9:30 a.m. this morning. Most of those have come at Philadelphia and New York LaGuardia.

Airline spokesman Todd Lehmacher says that number likely will increase if the forecast is accurate. Storm-related slowdowns also had begun to affect Philadelphia, with the Federal Aviation Administration's delay page showing delays averaging nearly an hour-and-a-half as of 8:55 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

As for some of the cancellations details, United announced late Tuesday (Nov. 6) afternoon that it "will suspend most service to and from the New York area between noon Wednesday, Nov. 7, and noon Thursday, Nov. 8."

FLIGHT TRACKER: Is your flight on time?

So far, about 500 flights have been canceled Wednesday and Thursday because of the "Nor'easter," United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says in an e-mail to Today in the Sky.

United operates one of its busiest hubs at Newark Liberty. At that airport, United says that "between noon Wednesday and noon Thursday, (it) intends to operate its long-haul international flights and flights to and from (its) other hubs, but will suspend most of its remaining services."

United also plans to suspend "all services" at LaGaurdia and JFK airpots beginning noon Wednesday and lasting at least through noon Thursday.

United hopes to resume operations at all three airports by noon Thursday. Even if it does, the cancellations already announced by the carrier will affect travelers at scores of the airline's destinations.

And, as it did during Sandy, United is waiving change fees for most customers ticketed to fly through the New York area between now and Thursday.

Delta also is waiving rebooking fees for many fliers scheduled to fly though the New York and Philadelphia airports today through Thursday.

American, JetBlue and US Airways are among other airlines waiving fees ahead of the latest storm. All three operate a big hub in the storm's impact zone.

Other airlines with Nor'easter-related waivers: Southwest, AirTran, Virgin America, Frontier, Air Canada and Porter Airlines.

Stay tuned for updates ...


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