About 1,600 Flights Canceled Thursday At Airports From Texas To The Midwest

With shovels and snowblowers tucked back into garages across the Northeast and clear skies following last weekend’s nor’easter, another winter storm is disrupting US air traffic this week. This time, the flight cancellations are concentrated at airports in the middle of the country.

The National Weather Service is currently tracking a multi-day “significant winter storm” that will bring heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain to the central US Thursday before continuing to the Northeast.

By 7 am this morning, more than 1,600 flights had been canceled for Thursday, the lion’s share at airports stretching from Texas to Indiana, according to FlightAware, an app that provides real-time, historical, and predictive flight tracking data.

MORE FROM FORBESThe Weekend Nor’easter Cost Airlines $35 Million-Less Per Day Than What Covid Costs Them

Nearly a quarter of tomorrow’s canceled flights originate at two Dallas airports, Dallas-Fort Worth International and Love Field. A trio of Midwest airports — Chicago O’Hare, St. Louis Lambert and Indianapolis — make up another 250 canceled flights.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has canceled 513 flights on Thursday. American and United have canceled 196 and 91 flights, respectively.

Major airlines have issued travel waivers allowing passengers flying in or out of impacted airports to rebook without paying the fare difference. For consumers looking to change travel plans or recoup travel expenses, much will depend upon the airline, itinerary and, in some cases, whether a travel insurance policy was purchased.

For example, Southwest Airlines has issued two-day winter travel alerts for today and Thursday collectively impacting 33 airports in the Rocky Mountain, South/Central and Midwest/Great Lakes regions. Passengers who bought a plane ticket for a flight traveling to, from or through any of the listed airports may rebook without a change fee for travel within the next 14 days.

American Airlines has winter alerts at 88 airports across a whopping 25 states. These include 63 airports in Central/Midwest US (for travel through Thursday) and 28 airports in the Northeast and Canada (for travel through Friday). The airline will waive the change fee for travel rebooked by Thursday or Friday (depending on region) for travel within several days.

Despite the impact to their schedules, the airlines will always prefer an anticipated weather event to disruptions caused by staff shortages or technical issues. “Not all cancellations are built equal for the airlines,” said Scott Keyes, a travel expert and the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “This is actually a better form of a cancellation for them. When they cancel a flight more than a day in advance, it’s just a lot easier planning wise. They have lower labor costs, they’re not legally bound to put passengers up in hotels and incur other large expenses like that.”

“January and February are historically the least popular months to travel,” said Keyes. “And so, if an airline could pick when a major weather event happens, now is probably about the ideal time in terms of the having the most minimal impact on operations.”

With about 5,000 flights canceled last weekend, the nor’easter cost the airline industry about $35 million over two days, Keyes estimated. That’s not good, but it’s all relative, considering how the Covid-19 pandemic has pummeled airlines on a daily basis. The three largest US airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines — reported a collective net loss of $1,926 billion in Q4 2021, or an average loss of $21 million per day over the last 90 days of last year. Comparatively, the industry’s losses from the storm likely averaged $17.5 million a day over the weekend.

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