Airports, Airlines, Aviation

Winter Weather and Cancelled Flights

As winter sinks its teeth into the Midwest and the Northeast of the United States, cancellations and delays become a big issue for airports, airlines and passengers alike. Airlines have taken a much more proactive approach to winter storms in recent years. Previously many airlines would wait and see how bad a storm is before they would cancel flights, leaving many passengers stranded in transit. While this scenario still occurs, airlines tend to like to cancel their flights early enough so they can manage the situation better and avoid those costly fines for imposed by the FAA for flights being on the tarmac for 3 hrs or more. This policy can be good for both sides; the airlines can get a handle on the storm early and manage its cancellations, issue you travel vouchers and re-book passengers from those cancelled flights. While the passenger gets a heads up and can be proactive about getting on another flight. Make no mistake though cancellations due to weather cost the airlines and the passengers a lot of money.

winter airport

The Cancellations 

According flight status aggregator FlightView who publishes a monthly on time performance report, in January in the USA 2.3% around 17k flights were canceled. Many of these flights can be attributed to Juno, the storm that hit the east coast near the end of the month. These storms also have a ripple effect and cause delays and cancellations in cities that have fair skyies. An example of this is a flight from Orlando to Phoenix, it could become delayed or canceled if the crew or aircraft slated to operate that route gets knocked off schedule by the problems in the North.

On Time Performance Report provided by FlightView
Region On Time Performance Report provided by FlightView

The Cost

Airlines that fly into New York, Chicago and Boston felt the worst of the storm this past week as 6,000 flights were canceled through Tuesday Feb 2nd. It is estimated that this latest winter blast will cost airlines at least $16 million, as they pay extra crew/ground members, give refunds to passengers who choose not to reschedule cancelled trips, lost revenue and thousands of gallons of deicing fluid that they will eventually have to use unless all their aircraft are in hangers.


Passengers will also feel a large hit to the wallet. Airlines have been good about issuing travel waivers due to winter storms but they only apply to the ticket purchase. If you are stuck at the airport the airlines won’t contribute to passenger meals or accommodations costs when service is disrupted due to weather as it’s scene as an “act of god” and out of the control of the airlines. Its estimated that 380,000 passengers will collectively spend an extra $180 million, much of it will go to hotels, transportation, meals and various other cost associated with traveling. So while you might not pay extra to alter your flights, unless you sleep on the floor of the airport and eat a bagged lunch, these winter storms will cost you.

Stay Updated

Most airlines will prompt you to call the airline to stay updated of your flight status. Well anyone who has dialed up the airline during a storm most likely is put into a queue with very long wait times. For me the best way to get an update on a flight or what to do in a situation is to contact the airline social media team usually through twitter. I have found that I can get a quicker and more detailed response via twitter than over the phone. Also if you can be flexible during a storm and take a much later flight, you can usually earn yourself some credit or at least free drinks.

As always let tripchi be your guide to the airport and follow us on Twitter @tripchi and on facebook at Travel on my friends!


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