Over 3,300 Flights Canceled Saturday With Nor’easter Due To Pummel East Coast

Robert Roffulo

A Nor’easter is wreaking havoc with tomorrow’s flights on the East Coast. (Photo by Thomas Cooper) Getty Images As the clock struck noon today, more than 2,200 flights had been cancelled for Saturday, January 29, in anticipation of a major winter storm expected to begin Friday evening and pummel the […]

As the clock struck noon today, more than 2,200 flights had been cancelled for Saturday, January 29, in anticipation of a major winter storm expected to begin Friday evening and pummel the eastern United States for much of Saturday. By 7:30 p.m., another 1,100 flights had been cut from tomorrow’s schedule.

If that number holds, the airline industry is likely looking at a loss of about $23 million for this one-day weather event, estimates Scott Keyes, a travel expert and the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a platform with over two million members around the world.

“It’s not something that is catastrophic to the airline’s revenue,” said Keyes. “Not chump change, but considering airlines tend to pay attention to billions of dollars of costs or revenues, it’s not something that is going to have a huge impact on the bottom line.”

Of course, those losses will be higher if the number of cancellations continues to rise, as it is likely to. As of Friday evening, 78% of flights out of JFK airport are canceled. “You got to imagine that’s going to go higher,” said Keyes.

The National Weather Service is forecasting blizzard conditions for Boston, with total snow accumulations of 11 to 15 inches with wind gusts of up to 60 mph. Further south, the New York City forecast calls for 6 to 9 inches of snow and winds gusting as high as 45 mph. “Bitter cold air will filter in behind the Nor’easter and plunge temperatures across the eastern third of the country on Saturday. Highs will be 15-25 degrees below average in most places,” according to the alert.

“We’re watching for airports along the East Coast from as far south as Charleston to northern Maine to be possibly directly impacted by precipitation and/or wind,” said Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and current spokesperson for FlightAware, an app that provides real-time, historical, and predictive flight tracking data.

The most impacted region for flight cancellations is New York City, where a airports — JFK, Newark and LaGuardia — already have tallied a combined 1,000 flight cancellations. Boston’s Logan is slated for 307 cancellations so far.

JetBlue Airways, based at JFK International Airport with secondary hubs at Boston Logan and Washington Dulles, has canceled 576 flights on Saturday. American and United have canceled 453 and 424 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, American Airlines has issued a winter travel alert impacting nearly five dozen airports. Passengers who bought a plane ticket before January 26 for a flight traveling Friday or Saturday to, from or through any of 57 listed airports may rebook flights without a change fee if they rebook by January 29 for travel through February 5.

As a point of comparison, JetBlue’s winter travel alert only covers 18 airports. Passengers traveling Friday or Saturday may rebook without an extra fee if the original ticket was purchased by January 26 and the new flight departs by February 1.

Despite the hassles, the airlines will prefer an anticipated weather event to disruptions caused by staff shortages or technical issues. “Not all cancellations are built equal for the airlines,” says Keyes. “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.”

“It’s also happening during a low travel period,” said Keyes. “That’s not only because of omicron, but also January and February are historically the least popular months to travel. 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.”


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