Airline Chaos: 10,000 Flights Canceled So Far

January 23, 2016 Updated: January 23, 2016
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Airlines have canceled nearly 7,000 flights so far on Saturday and are starting to cut service on Monday, as driving snow and ice bring many East Coast airports to a standstill.

The bulk of Saturday’s 4,459 cancelations are at airports in the New York City and Washington metro areas, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Another 2,467 flights were canceled for Sunday, and the count keeps rising.

As the storm intensified, United Airlines announced it would not operate out of airports in the Washington D.C. area Sunday. It says it expects to gradually resume service on Monday. At New York City area airports, it expects “very limited” service starting Sunday afternoon.

Travelers wait to be ticketed on Jan. 22, 2016, at San Francisco International airport in San Francisco. Thousands of flights have been canceled and delayed because of a blizzard that is ripping across the East Coast. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Travelers wait to be ticketed on Jan. 22, 2016, at San Francisco International airport in San Francisco. Thousands of flights have been canceled and delayed because of a blizzard that is ripping across the East Coast. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The number of cancelations for all airlines on Monday is 320, but FlightAware says that is sure to rise.

The tally since Friday of cancelled flights now tops 10,000. Cancelations have centered on Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Washington and New York, with airlines essentially shutting down all flights into those cities.

One bit of good news: Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week. There were a little more than 22,000 flights scheduled to, from or within the U.S., according to FlightAware. That’s about 5,000 fewer flights—and 400,000 fewer passengers—than Thursday or Friday.

Michelle Navarre Cleary pulls a bag as she walks on K Street in Washington on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, as snow continues to fall. With long lead time from forecasters and stern warnings from authorities, tens of millions of residents from northern Georgia to New Jersey shuttered themselves inside to wait out a mammoth storm that made travel treacherous and could dump 2 feet or more of snow in some areas. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)
Michelle Navarre Cleary pulls a bag as she walks on K Street in Washington on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, as snow continues to fall. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Amtrak has also canceled or cut back on service. Several trains scheduled to depart Washington D.C. for New York City were canceled. There is also no service from Washington to stations in Virginia and the Southeast, according to Amtrak’s website.

All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. The airports included vary by airline but include some cities in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia all the way up the coast to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. As of late Friday night, American Airlines alone has issued waivers for 42 airports.

Passengers looking to cancel trips should wait until the airline officially calls off the flight. Airlines have been much more proactive in recent years about canceling flights, often doing so up to a day in advance. More travelers are impacted, but they aren’t stuck waiting in airports. It also lets airlines restart the system quicker because they have planes and crews in place.

Liam Everett (L), 8, Chloe Betts (C), 10, and Isabella Everett, 10, of North Carolina, play a card game, at Orlando International Airport in Orlanda, Fla., on Jan. 22, 2016. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Liam Everett (L), 8, Chloe Betts (C), 10, and Isabella Everett, 10, of North Carolina, play a card game, at Orlando International Airport in Orlanda, Fla., on Jan. 22, 2016. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

What To Do If You’re Stuck At The Airport

If your flight is canceled, and you are stuck at the airport, here are some tips:

Customer Service

Get in line to speak to a customer service representative, but also call the airline directly. If the phone lines are jammed, try the airline’s overseas numbers. You’ll pay long-distance rates but might not have to wait. Finally, consider sending a tweet to the airline.

Airline Lounges

There are more to airline lounges than free drinks and lights snacks. Airlines often staff them with some of their best — and friendliest — ticket agents. The lines are shorter and these agents are sometimes able to find empty seats. So consider buying a one-day pass. It typically costs $50, but discounts can sometimes be found online.

Apps

Use apps like HotelTonight and Priceline to find last-minute discounts for that night. Many of the rooms are nonrefundable when booked, so lock in only once you are stuck.