U.S. airlines have scuttled more than 1,000 flights as a winter storm pummels the U.S. Midwest, hobbling travel just as airports prepare for the peak of the pre-Christmas rush.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s second- busiest for passenger traffic, led the cancellations with more than 470, industry data provider FlightAware said. The city’s Midway International Airport scrubbed almost 150 flights, Houston-based FlightAware said.
Fog and low clouds in Chicago snarled operations for United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US) and American Airlines, which rank first and third in U.S. passenger traffic and both have hubs at O’Hare. Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV:US), the fourth-biggest U.S. carrier, was suspending flights at its Midway base at 4:30 p.m.
The heaviest days for pre-Christmas travel will be tomorrow through Dec. 23, according to Airlines for America, the U.S. industry’s Washington-based trade group. More than 42 million passengers will fly during the holiday period, which the group defines as running from Dec. 17 through Jan. 6.
The 1,000-plus cancellations tallied by FlightAware didn’t count the delays rippling across the U.S. air-traffic system. Winds slowed flights at San Francisco International Airport, a United hub, FlightAware said.
Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL:US), No. 2 in the world after United and based in Atlanta, canceled 250 flights system-wide due to the bad weather, Morgan Durrant, a spokesman said in a telephone interview.
The National Weather Service was forecasting as much as 2 to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow in Chicago. Late-afternoon temperatures of about 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) were projected to fall overnight as the snow arrived. Chicago’s airports will handle about 2.4 million passengers from tomorrow through Jan. 2, the city’s aviation department said.
Other U.S. Midwest cities were also feeling the effects. Southwest will stop flights tonight in Milwaukee after 6 p.m., said Brad Hawkins, a spokesman. Hawkins couldn’t immediately say how many flights the Dallas-based airline had canceled because of the snowstorm.
United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS:US) suspended pickups and deliveries temporarily for some areas of Iowa and Nebraska where snow is affecting road travel, said Peggy Gardner, a spokeswoman. Some planes were rerouted around Des Moines, Iowa, to the Atlanta- based company’s main gateway in Louisville, Kentucky. Other areas may be affected as the storm moves, she said.
“We still have a few days before Christmas, so we’re looking for other ways to ensure even those hardest hit can get their important packages,” she said.
Snow has slowed FedEx Corp. (FDX:US) deliveries in parts of Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Missouri, said Scott Fiedler, a spokesman. The Memphis, Tennessee-based company has implemented contingency plans and hasn’t suspended service in any areas, he said.
AMR Corp.’s American and regional affiliate American Eagle had canceled 271 flights, FlightAware said. Chicago-based United scrapped 230 flights for its main jet operations and commuter carriers and delayed others for as much as 2 1/2 hours because of the storm, Mary Clark, a spokeswoman, said by phone.
US Airways Group Inc. (LCC:US) canceled 41 mainline and regional flights, Liz Landau, a spokeswoman, said by phone.
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