Friday, December 8, 2017

Fliers face flight woes Saturday as winter storm heads north



Air travelers faced another day of delays and cancellations Saturday as an early-season winter storm moved from the South toward the Northeast. All big airlines were waiving changes for flights to a number of destinations across the East.

Nationwide, more than 770 flights had been canceled and another 1,300 delayed as of 10:40 a.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.

For the second day in a row, Atlanta’s airport was the hardest hit. More than 400 flights had been canceled there so far on Saturday. With that total, about one out of every five flights in Atlanta had been canceled for Saturday. On Friday, nearly 1,200 flights there were canceled -- are more than 40% of the schedule. 

The Atlanta disruptions were particularly troublesome for Delta Air Lines, which operates its busiest hub at the airport.

“Prolonged wintry precipitation and plunging temperatures continue to adversely affect Delta’s hub operation in Atlanta,” the carrier said Saturday morning. Delta said the storm forced it to cancel 970 flights Friday and 290 so far Saturday.

Southwest, the No. 2 carrier in Atlanta, also has been forced to cancel more than 130 flights across the nation on both Friday and Saturday.

By Saturday morning, the travel woes had expanded beyond the South. By mid-morning, snow had begun to fall in New York, Washington, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia. Snow totals were forecast to be less than 6 inches for most of the region, a relatively modest amount for a region used to wintry precipitation. Still, the weather was causing problems at airports.

At the Baltimore/Washington International – a major base for Southwest and Spirit – 88 flights had been canceled as of 10:40 a.m. ET, FlightAware counted. That accounted for more than 10% of day’s flights.

Most of the region’s other major airports also were seeing above-average rates of delays and cancellations. Though none were gridlocked, airports where fliers were  seeing at least some disruptions included Newark Liberty; New York LaGuardia; New York JFK; Washington Reagan National; Boston; Raleigh/Durham; Columbus, Ohio; and Richmond, Va.

The ripple effect of the problems in Atlanta and the Northeast were being felt across the nation.

In Florida, for example, about 30 flights had been canceled at Orlando International – mostly fallout from the problems in Atlanta and the Northeast.

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BAY COUNTY — Winter Storm Benji didn’t dump any snow on Bay County, but it did lead to cold weather shelters opening and some area flights being canceled.

Several local travelers experienced cancellations after Delta Air Lines canceled all of Friday’s incoming and outgoing flights between Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

ECP Airport executive director Parker McClellan said the airline canceled a majority of its flights as a result of a winter weather advisory in Atlanta. Scheduled arrivals from Atlanta will be dependent upon the weather, but he said the airline anticipates resuming all flights Saturday. McClellan said the cancellations have nothing to do with weather conditions in Bay County, where temperatures were hovering in the 40s all morning.

“We’re asking everyone to check with airlines before they come to the airport,” McClellan said.

As of midday Friday, Delta had canceled ECP’s 6 a.m., 2:50 p.m., and 6:05 p.m. Friday flights to Atlanta. It also canceled ECP-bound flights scheduled for 9:22 a.m., 5:25 p.m. and an 8:15 p.m.

Meteorologist Lauren Merritt with the National Weather Service in Atlanta said reports of snow have been coming in, and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is expected to receive 2 inches of snow today.

“We’re seeing some rain and some snow,” she said. “There might be a little sleet.”

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