Winter storms lead to thousands more airline cancellations and delays

Jan 16, 2022

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A nascent recovery in airline operations has been dealt a giant setback this weekend. More than 2,800 flights were canceled by mid-afternoon on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

Today, it’s not just the omicron variant and sick employees, but a series of storms slamming the southern and eastern United States.

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Especially hard hit? Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) — American Airlines’ second-largest hub. Charlotte has had more than 1,200 flights canceled, according to flight tracking company Flight Aware.

The Points Guy freelance reporter Ted Reed said Charlotte Airport “is basically closed.”

Reached for comment on Sunday, American Airlines told TPG:

“This weekend’s winter storm has had a significant impact on our operation, especially at Charlotte International Airport (CLT). The vast majority of impacted flights were canceled in advance so we could proactively notify and accommodate our customers and avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.”

More than 80 million Americans are under some kind of winter storm advisory today.

According to Flight Aware, American Airlines has canceled 22% of its flights today — that’s more than 633 flights. Delta cut 10% or 240 flights and Southwest has cut 9% of its flights. The weather is creating downstream impacts as well, with nearly every airline cutting or delaying flights today.

(Screenshot courtesy Flight Aware)
(Screenshot courtesy of Flight Aware)

American told me that including pre-canceled flights, the number was actually closer to 1,300. American said, “We apologize to our customers whose travel plans have been affected, and want to thank our team who have worked tirelessly to help us safely care for our customers.”

Related: Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

There is some good news for travelers.

The major airlines have all announced travel waivers for flights affected by the storms. American Airlines, for example, is allowing free changes and cancellations for more than 20 states.

Related: 1 in 13 flights was canceled during the holidays

AA Northeast travel waiver. (Screenshot courtesy American Airlines)
AA Northeast travel waiver. (Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Southwest’s waiver language is common:

“Customers holding reservations to/from/through the cities above on the corresponding dates, may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.”

A Southwest spokesman, reached for comment Sunday, told me, “For necessary perspective, we had 3,300 flights scheduled for today before planners started their work 24-36 hours ago to adapt our operational plan for Sunday around the most impacted geographies for the winter storm being called Izzy.”

As of 2 p.m. Southwest had canceled 312 flights and delayed another 243.

Delta told TPG they had instituted a number of steps to try and deal with today’s storms including canceling approximately 400 flights, adding weather waivers and positioning employees at airports and airport hotels to, ” … quickly be in place for the morning operations.”

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said, “Of the customers’ flights that were impacted, more than 85% have been given a new scheduled flight times within eight hours of their original flight.”

Featured photo of a United Airlines plane covered with snow at Newark Liberty International Airport in January 2022 by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

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