Canceled flights piling up with Northeast snow

By David Koenig

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 12 2011 1:25 p.m. MST

FILE - In this file photo taken Dec. 27, 2010, snow removal crews work to clear runways at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights in the snowy Northeast Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, but they said travelers won't be stuck for days as they were after a Christmas weekend storm.

Matt Rourke, file, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Airlines canceled hundreds of flights in the snowy Northeast, but they said travelers won't be stuck for days as they were after a Christmas weekend storm.

It will be easier to put stranded passengers on later flights, which aren't as full as they were during the holidays, according to the airlines.

Travel in and out of New York and Boston was very limited Wednesday morning. Officials at New York City area's three major airports said more than 1,700 flights were canceled.

American Airlines expected to resume flights at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark (N.J.) airports in the New York area by afternoon but not until 7 p.m. at Boston's Logan Airport.

"Basically we're going to write off the day" in Boston, where only one runway was open and conditions allowed for just "fair braking," said American spokesman Ed Martelle. In all, American and its regional affiliate, American Eagle, scrubbed 420 flights.

As the storm moved north, Delta Air Lines expected to run a regular schedule at its hub in Atlanta, which was hit hard by snow and ice earlier this week. Delta, like American, didn't plan to resume New York flights until afternoon, said spokesman Anthony Black.

Delta decided late Tuesday to cancel more than 1,000 flights on Wednesday — about one-fifth of its schedule. In recent years airlines have increasingly canceled flights early to prevent travelers from reaching the airport only to discover at the last minute that their flight has been grounded.

Continental Airlines, which has a hub in Newark, N.J., canceled 485 flights, United Airlines dropped 180, and JetBlue Airways canceled 275.Southwest scrubbed about 100 flights — everything before 5 p.m. into Boston, Manchester, N.H., Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn. The Hartford airport was open but closed periodically to clear snow from the main runway.

The ripple effect from weather problems spread across the country. At San Francisco International, most morning flights to the East Coast were halted. This week's mess in Atlanta snarled air service out of Minneapolis, where Atlanta-based Delta carries nearly 80 percent of passenger traffic.

"We had a couple of days when very few flights were able to make it to or from Atlanta," said Minneapolis airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. "It's been a tough week for flying anywhere to or from the East Coast."

With so many canceled flights, stranded travelers were going to airline websites and calling travel agents to rebook on later flights. Airlines reported heavy phone call loads at reservation centers.

Some, including United and Continental, automatically rebooked passengers on the next open flight, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for those two airlines.

The late December blizzard shut down New York and Boston airports and led to more than 10,000 canceled flights, and it took several days for many passengers to get home because there were few empty seats on later flights. Airlines are confident things will be better this time.

"We're in the early-January trough — travel isn't as heavy as it is around Christmas," said Martelle, the American spokesman. "It should be easier to get people on planes sooner."

AP Airlines writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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