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Cancellations across the northeast: The U.S. gets ready for its next big storm

Feb 08, 2013 4:51 am

Skift Take

Since Hurricane Irene in the late summer of 2011, U.S. airlines have shifted tack to allowing customers to pre-cancel and pre-change flights without encountering big fees. It make passengers’ lives better, and eases both stress on and hatred of airlines.

— Jason Clampet

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U.S. airlines scrapped about 2,000 flights for the next two days and braced for additional cancellations from a winter storm that threatens to dump as much as 2 feet of snow across parts of New England.

Carriers announcing schedule changes before the arrival of the nor’easter included Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. All three have hubs or bases in the New York area, the busiest U.S. aviation market.

“We will continue to monitor and adjust our operations as needed,” said Mateo Lleras, a spokesman for JetBlue. New York and Boston are home to some of JetBlue’s largest operations, and both are in the path of the storm.

Boston may receive 24 inches (61 centimeters) of snow as the coastline is pounded by high waves and wind gusts as high as 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, according to the National Weather Service. New York City may get 10 inches of snow and blizzard conditions are likely to envelop Suffolk County on Long Island, said Tim Morrin, a weather service meteorologist.

The tally of scrapped flights was based on reports from airlines and probably will rise as the storm reaches the U.S. northeast and carriers reassess their schedules.

Pre-emptive cancellations allow airlines to reposition aircraft ahead of foul weather such as a blizzard or hurricane. That keeps planes and people out of harm’s way and enables carriers to restore service more quickly once flying conditions improve.

United, Delta and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, the three biggest carriers in the U.S., joined competitors in issuing travel waivers letting passengers change flights in the region without a penalty.

“We are doing all we can to accommodate our customers,” said Kent Powell, an American spokesman. “We’ve added extra flights out of the areas most directly impacted by the storm tomorrow and will look to fly additional flights into these cities as weather conditions improve.”

Editors: Stephen West, Ed Dufner. To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net; Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net.

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