By Rajesh Kumar Singh
CHICAGO – U.S. carriers on Friday canceled thousands of flights through the weekend in anticipation of a winter storm forecast to bring high winds and heavy snow across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
The National Weather Service said in an advisory that the Nor’easter would result in dangerous blizzards and make travel “nearly impossible.” Flight-tracking service FlightAware reported about 4,900 U.S. flights were canceled between Friday and Sunday.
Delta Air Lines said it would suspend operations at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in New York, Newark Liberty airport in New Jersey and Logan airport in Boston from Saturday through Sunday morning.
The Atlanta-based carrier canceled 1,290 flights from Friday to Sunday. Customers who would have traveled then were allowed to reschedule to different flights without extra cost.
“Delta teams are focused on a safe and orderly restart of operations at these airports and others in the Northeast Sunday afternoon, depending on conditions,” the company said in a statement.
Similarly, American Airlines canceled about 1,160 flights as it expects “significant” impact from the storm on its Northeast operations, especially at Logan airport. Affected passengers can rebook flights without change fees.
New York-based JetBlue canceled about 500 flights through Sunday including half of its scheduled flights on Saturday.
United Airlines has cut 21% of its Saturday flights, according to FlightAware.
The storm has added to the challenges facing the airline industry, which is trying to recover from turbulence caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant. An increase in COVID-19 infections among employees has left carriers short staffed, forcing them to cancel flights.
Southwest Airlines Co on Thursday said about 5,000 employees, or roughly 10% of its workforce, had contracted the virus in the first three weeks of January. The company has canceled more than 5,600 flights thus far this month, which is estimated to cost it $50 million in revenue.
(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Mark Porter and Cynthia Osterman)