The latest set of cancellations and delays caused by an arctic blast come as travelers have already faced disruptions due to the 737-9 grounding and severe weather that afflicted much of the U.S. on Tuesday.
Airlines are canceling thousands of flights this long weekend as millions are under a severe storm watch due to an arctic blast expected to bring below zero temperatures, heavy snow and blustery winds.
As of Friday evening, the U.S. tallied 2,785 cancellations and 5,130 delays, according to FlightAware. That number is expected to climb throughout the weekend.
The arctic blast is expected to primarily affect the Midwest, along with the Rockies and Plains regions. The National Weather Service warned the weather would be “dangerously cold.”
As a result, airports in Chicago, Denver and Detroit are experiencing hundreds of cancellations and delays. O’Hare, a hub for United Airlines and American Airlines, has canceled 414 flights, or around 40%, as of Friday evening. Midway International Airport, Chicago’s second-busiest airport, canceled 142 flights, tallying to around 58%, according to FlightAware.
Southwest — which has major bases in Chicago’s Midway and Denver — reported the most disruptions of the major U.S. carriers, with 401 cancellations and 1,052 delays.
The winter weather could be a big test for Southwest’s operations. The Dallas-based carrier has invested billions of dollars in de-icing equipment and technology after a winter storm in 2022 forced the carrier to cancel almost 17,000 flights between Christmas and New Year’s.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan has also previously said such an incident would never happen again.
United canceled 282 flights as of Friday evening, but part of those cancellations are due to the Federal Aviation Administration grounding the Boeing 737 Max 9.
The wintry weather disruptions come as travelers have already faced numerous travel disruptions in the past week. United and Alaska Airlines have canceled hundreds of flights daily as a result of the 737-9 grounding, and severe storms ranging from heavy rain and snow to tornadoes hit much of the U.S. earlier in the week, causing more cancellations and delays.
Alaska said on Friday that it decided to cancel all flights operated on the 737-9 through Sunday as the FAA has paused inspections into the aircraft.
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