Flight cancellations top 9 000 as Americans shiver

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JetBlueSnow REUTERS Picture: Reuters.

Airlines were scrapping US flights again yesterday, pushing the total past 9 000 in four days, as they struggled to rebuild schedules after fresh Midwest snow added to disruptions from last week’s north-east storm.

Cancelled departures and arrivals topped 1 500 at Chicago’s major airports, O’Hare International and Midway International, the city’s aviation department said on Sunday. Snowfall in the area was forecast to be as deep as 25cm, the National Weather Service said.

The foul weather came as the first full work week of the new year got under way and the holiday travel season drew to a close. Chicago-based United Airlines and New York-based JetBlue Airways were among the carriers trying to rebook fliers who missed connections or who found themselves stranded as their flights were scrubbed.

“We are working hard to reset the operation and get people where they’re going, but it will take days, not hours,” JetBlue said.

Cancellations for yesterday already totalled almost 1 400 by late on Sunday, according to Houston-based FlightAware. Airlines scrubbed more than 3 100 flights on Sunday and had delays on about 7 000 more, according to FlightAware, whose tallies include all trips, not just those affected by weather.

United, a unit of United Continental Holdings, and its commuter partners were among the hardest hit by cancellations, FlightAware data showed. United warned fliers of possible delays in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, Minneapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina. All those cities are home to hub airports for major US airlines.

Southwest Airlines, the busiest carrier at Midway, had more than half of Sunday’s flights across its system cancelled or late, according to FlightAware.

The coldest temperatures in almost two decades were moving into the northern and central US behind an arctic cold front, with “life-threatening” wind chill values as low as minus 50ºC, the National Weather Service said. – Bloomberg

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