Northeast braces for a major storm — and an even rougher travel day

Dec 1, 2019

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The Northeast U.S. is bracing for a lashing of winter weather Sunday, the forecast busiest travel day of 2019.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), a major hub for United Airlines, averaged arrival delays of 2 hours and 33 minutes due to “weather/snow-ice” at 10 a.m. EST Sunday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FlightAware.com showed that 50 flights at Newark were already canceled and another 111 flights delayed at the same time Sunday. The majority of cancellations were on United Express operators CommutAir and ExpressJet Airlines.

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United and its peers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines have issued weather waivers for the winter storm in the Northeast Sunday. Chicago-based United is waiving change fees and fare differences for passengers booked on flights on Dec. 1-2 through 29 airports stretching from Erie (ERI), Pennsylvania, to Presque Isle (PQI), Maine, to another day for the storm.

The National Weather Service expects a mix of snow, rain and sleet, with temperatures below freezing when including wind chill at New York LaGuardia on Sunday, its latest forecast shows. The counties around New York and farther north could get 5-12 inches of snow and up to a quarter inch of ice through Tuesday.

The weather comes as industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) expects 3.1 million passengers to fly on Sunday, making it the busiest of the year.

Airlines have beefed up schedules to accommodate the record crowds. American added 78 “red-eye” flights between midnight and 3 a.m. CST from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub, though the final number may be impacted by the weather. The airline’s Northeast weather waiver includes four airports with extra flights tonight: Newark, New York LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), and Pittsburgh (PIT).

Related: American adds 78 red-eyes from DFW to handle Thanksgiving rush

For Sunday, American spokesman Ross Feinstein told TPG that the airline has canceled just seven mainline and 28 regional flights as of 9:45 a.m. EST.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), where there have been extensive FAA ground delay programs, has been the most challenging over the Thanksgiving travel season, Feinstein added.

FlightAware shows that 80 flights have been canceled at San Francisco, the majority on regional operator SkyWest Airlines, as of 10 a.m. EST. SkyWest primarily operates as United Express at the airport.

Delta has added roughly 330 extra flights across its system to accommodate an expected 690,000 travelers Sunday.

Featured image by Rebecca Butala How/Getty Images.

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