MIAMI — As U.S. carriers dig out from this weekend’s Winter Storm Pandora, Airways looks back at the thousands of cancelled flights across the country this winter and how the airlines managed operations during brutal conditions during what has shaped up to be a challenging storm season.
Two months into 2015 have brought several major winter storms. While severe winter storms, such as Marcus and Octavia in February, each caused major delays across the east coast of the United States, Winter Storms Linus and Juno each crippled much of the Eastern seaboard, causing tens of millions in economic impact on airlines.
Winter Storm Octavia brought snow and ice across the Midwest and into the Southeast. Major U.S. airports, including Memphis and Charlotte, were affected, with hundreds of flights cancelled. This storm took a more southern path and hit airports that are usually not accustomed to severe winter weather. For this reason, large delays and cancelled flights were forced as proper equipment for treating airfields and aircraft often was not available to meet demand.
Winter Storm Juno hit the Northeast hard in late January. This monster dropped more than two feet of snow in Boston and forced the cancellation of more than 8,900 flights,. In turn, the storm affected more than 700,00 passengers, costing them upwards of $350 million.
According to data and analytics firm masFlight, in 2015 alone, U.S. airlines have cancelled more than 28,800 flights due to severe winter weather. The flying public has lost an estimated $1 billion in out-of-pocket expenses and lost productivity as a result of cancelled flights. So far, two million passengers across the country have had their travel plans disrupted due to winter storms.
“So far, the cancellation impact of the 2015 winter season is trending slightly higher than what we are used to seeing during this time of year,” according to Edmund Otubuah, managing director at masFlight. “I think this really highlights how brutal the 2014 winter season was to airline operations, where the U.S. airlines cancelled over 42,300 flights during the same period.”
The Northeast has been the hardest-hit region in 2015. Major airports such as New York LaGuardia, New York JFK, Newark, Boston and Philadelphia have all seen major flight cancellations and delays.
Jetblue Airways, which operates its only hub at New York JFK and its largest focus city at Boston Logan, has been the heaviest-hit airline this winter. The cancellation rate during this time reached an astounding 11.5 percent. American Airlines/US Airways, with hubs in Philadelphia and New York JFK, had a cancelation rate of 6.9 percent. United Airlines, with its large Newark hub, rounded out the top three with a 6.3 percent cancellation rate.
Airlines across the country helped the more than two million travelers by waiving change fees on impacted routes during a short time frame. Nearly all domestic U.S. carriers operating in the Northeast region offered impacted passengers support in varying degrees.
One such carrier is Southwest Airlines who allowed impacted customers a one-time change in their itinerary and no fee. This only applied as long as passengers flew within 14 days of their original flight and to the same city pairs. “Safety is our number one priority. If it’s not safe to fly, we won’t fly. We are working with Customers to reaccommodate them on different flights,” said spokesman Dan Landson. “We are also keeping everyone updated with a travel advisory that’s being updated as needed at Southwest.com. We encourage customers to visit the travel advisory for details and reaccommodation policies.”
With more than two million passengers impacted and nearly 30,000 flights cancelled so far, the winter of 2015 continues to challenge airlines and passengers across the country.