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Airlines cancel 2,500 flights through Wednesday

4:35 PM, Feb 11, 2014   |    comments
In this file photo from Jan. 6, 2014, a man looks at a flight departure board filled with cancellations and delays at Boston Logan Airport. (Photo: Charles Krupa, AP)
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(USA TODAY) Air travelers faced a new wave of flight disruptions this week from yet another winter storm.

More than 1,230 flights had been canceled nationwide as of 2:50 p.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. And that was just Tuesday. Another 1,300 had already been canceled for Wednesday.

Most big airlines waived change fees and relaxed rebooking rules for customers ticketed to fly through stormy airports, though the precise details varied by airline.

On Tuesday, more than 165 departures and more than 250 arrivals had been canceled at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Those totals represented roughly 15% of the airport's daily schedule, according to FlightAware.com. And for Wednesday, nearly 975 combined arrivals and cancellations had already been canceled by 2:50 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

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USA TODAY: South braces for 'mind-boggling if not historical' storm

Delta, which operates its busiest hub in Atlanta, had canceled more than 1,000 flights nationwide for Tuesday and Wednesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Delta canceled about 500 flights Tuesday while FlightAware.com shows nearly 700 cancellations for Wednesday.

At Charlotte - a major hub for US Airways - more than 300 combined arrivals and departures had been canceled for Tuesday and another 290 for Wednesday,according to a FlightAware tally as of 2:50 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

And, in Dallas - where wintry was in the forecast Tuesday - more than 400 flights were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW), the biggest hub for American Airlines.

American and its American Eagle regional affiliate had canceled a combined 393 flights as of 2:50 p.m. ET, according to FlightAware.

Wednesday's schedule at DFW showed only a small number of cancellations.

Tuesday cancellations were becoming a problem elsewhere in the south, including at Birmingham, Ala., where snow was mixing with rain and fog early Tuesday morning. More frozen precipitation was expected Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning. About 25 arrival and departure cancellations -- or more than 10% of the day's schedule -- had been reported at Alabama's busiest airport as of 2:50 p.m. ET, according to FlightAware.

Unfortunately for fliers, the scope of the flight disruptions was expected to expand dramatically in the next 48 hours. Problems at busy airports like Atlanta and Charlotte were likely to persist into Wednesday. By Wednesday's end, snow is expected to start in Washington, Philadelphia and New York -- likely snarling flights at a half-dozen of the nation's busiest airports.

Of the 1,317 preemptive Wednesday cancellations counted by FlightAware as of 2:50 p.m., half came from the Atlanta and Charlotte airports.

Three airports -- Raleigh-Durham, Washington Reagan National and LaGuardia -- already had about dozen Wednesday departures canceled. Many others already had a least a dozen cancellations for Wednesday, including Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Chicago O'Hare, Newark Liberty, Fort Lauderdale, Columbia (S.C.), Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

If the effects from this week's storm match is similar to ones from earlier this year, it's possible that airlines could end up cancelling between 5,000 and 10,000 flights across the nation before the storm winds down by Friday. That would send flight disruptions rippling to airports across the nation. A flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, for example, could become delayed or canceled if the aircraft or crew scheduled to fly it gets bogged down in the snowy south or mid-Atlantic.


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