Severe winter weather continues to hamper air travel in the U.S., and with another Arctic blast due later in the week, travelers can expect to see more disruptions.
Air travel cancellations and delays continued to soar in the U.S. on Tuesday as a severe winter storm arrived in the Northeast.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were a total of 1,944 cancellations and 4,996 delays nationwide, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines have tallied the most disruptions so far, although not all were directly weather related.
The National Weather Service described the conditions as “dangerously cold” in an alert on Monday.
A blast of Arctic air swept through the U.S. late last week, causing sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow and gusty winds spanning from the Midwest to the Rockies and Plains regions. That storm has now moved toward the Northeast, covering major cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston in snow.
The weather initially led to travel disruptions at major airports in the Midwest and Rockies, with Chicago O’Hare and Denver experiencing the most cancellations and delays over the weekend.
Arctic Blast Reaches the Northeast
Now, gateways in the Northeast are grappling with the severe weather — LaGuardia Airport and Reagan National Airport reported the most cancellations and delays on Tuesday afternoon. At LaGuardia there were 129 flights canceled and 216 delayed; meanwhile at Reagan National, 119 flights were canceled and 112 were delayed.
Southwest tallied the most disruptions of any major U.S. airline, with 391 cancellations and 805 delays as of Tuesday afternoon.
The winter storm has presented one of the first major tests for Southwest’s winter operations since the carrier invested billions in de-icing equipment and technology. This followed a major weather event in 2022 that led it to cancel nearly 17,000 flights from Christmas to New Year.
The Dallas-based firm said this week’s cancellations and delays were strictly related to the weather rather than its operations.
“We are seeing challenges ranging from wintry precipitation and blizzards to frozen equipment and other airfield constraints beyond our control,” a Southwest spokesperson said. “The persistent dangerous sub-zero windchill requires rotating ground crews to limit their exposure.”
United Faces Double Operational Headache
United, which has also dealt with hundreds of cancellations caused by the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 9, also reported a high number of disruptions. The carrier, which has major hubs in Chicago, Denver and Newark had 338 canceled flights and 533 delayed as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Our teams at the airports and contact centers are working to best serve our customers under difficult conditions,” United said in a statement.
American has also experienced hundreds of cancellations and delays in recent days, with its hubs in Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago seeing the brunt of the winter storm over the weekend. The carrier reported 142 cancellations and 739 delays as of Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesperson for AA said Tuesday was a “big recovery day” for the carrier, despite the conditions in the Northeast.
“We feel good about our ability to manage this,” the spokesperson added, noting that the company is still keeping a close eye on its operations from D.C. to Boston.
However, airlines and passengers may not receive much of a reprieve once this storm passes. The National Weather Service said on Tuesday that yet another Arctic blast is expected to affect the Southern and Plains regions of the U.S. later this week.
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Photo credit: A Southwest plane being deiced at Denver International Airport over the weekend - Denver International Airport/X Denver International Airport/X / Denver International Airport/X