Workers deice an Alaska Airlines plane during a snow storm at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle, Washington, US, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022.
David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights this week as winter storms, bitter cold and high winds snarled U.S. travel ahead of Christmas weekend.
Carriers scrubbed more than 2,800 flights from Wednesday through Friday, according to tracking site FlightAware. That period includes what airlines expected to be the busiest travel times before Christmas, which is Sunday.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport and Chicago Midway had the biggest share of cancelled flights on Thursday. Airlines warned that the snow, ice high winds and cold temperatures could affect travel from Seattle to Boston to North Carolina.
American, Southwest, United, Delta, Spirit, JetBlue, Alaska and other airlines issued weather waivers for dozens of destinations around the country, allowing travelers to change their departures without paying a change fee or difference in fare.
The weather could hurt what airlines expected to be busy travel days to cap a rocky year. United said it expects year-end holidays to be busier than Thanksgiving with 440,000 passengers a day on average. The carrier projected Jan. 2 will be the busiest record since the pandemic started.
Travelers arrive for their flights at United Airlines Terminal 1 ahead of the Christmas Holiday at O’Hare International Airport on December 22, 2022, in Chicago.
Kamil Krzaczynski | AFP | Getty Images
Disruptions over the spring and summer from bad weather and labor shortages sparked an outcry from customers and politicians, and prompted airlines to trim their schedules.
Late last year and in early 2023, the omicron wave of Covid sidelined crews and led to hundreds of flight cancellations.
American Airlines, for its part, has been offering extra pay for crews to work on peak holidays to shore up staffing.
“It’s all hands on deck to ensure our customers are cared for during the holiday travel season, including when severe weather hits,” American said in a statement. “Critical to our preparations was sizing the airline for the resources we have available and operating conditions we face, as well as being able to react quickly to get our customers on their way once the weather clears.”