Skies Empty Out Over Northeast as Massive Blizzard Cancels 3,300+ Flights

Jan 4, 2018

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How do mass flight cancellations affect the number of flights on a radar? We saw this impact during Hurricane Irma when airlines evacuated all aircraft from Florida, and again when the skies cleared out after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.

Now today, we are getting a chance to see how it looks when a blizzard cancels over 3,300 flights on Thursday — including more than half of all flights from major airports Newark (EWR), Boston (BOS) and New York’s LaGuardia (LGA).

For reference, here are all of the FlightRadar24-tracked flights Wednesday at 11:00am Eastern (16:00UTC):

That’s a solid amount of air traffic for midday and mid-week after the holiday rush has subsided. There are clear hubs of activity around New York City’s three airports (JFK/LGA/EWR), Philadelphia (PHL) and Boston (BOS), with transiting traffic making its way through the area.

Exactly 24 hours later at 11:00am Eastern (16:00UTC) Thursday, the FlightRadar24 map is strikingly empty:

Areas around New York City, Philadelphia and Boston are virtually empty of air traffic, due in no small part to the fact that JFK airport has been shuttered for the storm:

It’s not often that there’s just a handful of flights flying around this busy corridor, so let’s take a look at who’s in the air.

One of the few planes passing through the area is a UPS cargo flight from Philadelphia (PHL) to Cologne, Germany (CGN), located next to New Haven at the time of the snapshot.

The small plane just north of NYC is a Gulfstream IV which departed out of Westchester County Airport (HPN), a private jet perhaps carrying passengers who absolutely, positively needed to get somewhere despite the storm.

Next to that plane is an Air Canada Rouge flight operating through the nearly-empty air space flying from Toronto (YYZ) to Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVD).

The blizzard is also affecting The Points Guy team directly. One of the many thousand flights cancelled out of New York City includes a flight from JFK to San Juan, Puerto Rico scheduled to carry TPG team members down to our service project there this weekend. More on that soon!

Featured image by JT Genter / The Points Guy

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