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Airlines cancel 10,000 flights and scramble to rebook travelers

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An American Airlines plane is de-iced as high winds whip around 7.5 inches of recent snow at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Thursday, December 22, 2022.

Star Tribune Via Getty Images | Star Tribune | Getty Images

U.S. flight cancellations eased on Saturday but federal officials warned that disruptions could proceed as severe winter storms snarled air travel across the country ahead of Christmas.

U.S.-based airlines have canceled greater than 10,000 flights since Wednesday, in response to flight tracker FlightAware.

The bad weather and flight disruptions upended the vacation travel plans of a whole lot of hundreds of individuals during what airlines expect to be one among the busiest periods since before the pandemic.

Airlines and travelers were hard-pressed to seek out alternative flights before the vacation because planes were booked so full and schedules dropped sharply through the weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration said schedules peaked at 47,554 flights on Thursday, dropping to 30,875 on Saturday and just 27,997 on Sunday, Christmas Day.

That might force airlines to supply money refunds to travelers who determine to scrap their trips altogether due to delays.

FedEx and UPS warned holiday packages could arrive late attributable to the storms.

Airlines scrubbed about 5,600 flights on Friday alone, a few quarter of the schedule, when storms swept through cities from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast, bringing life-threatening cold to many areas. Federal forecasters warned of dangerous road conditions from ice and low visibility.

“Wind and blowing snow could cause delays in Chicago, and wind could cause delays in and around Washington, D.C., Recent York, Boston and Philadelphia,” the FAA said Saturday morning. “Seattle, San Francisco and airports serving Colorado ski resorts could see delays from low clouds and visibility.”

Greater than 1,700 Saturday flights were canceled.

Delays are also possible in Florida due to high variety of seasonal flights, the FAA added.

A jet taxis in snow at O’Hare International Airport on December 22, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

Extreme cold and high winds also slowed operations at dozens of airports. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. flights arrived late on Friday, by a median of nearly 90 minutes, FlightAware data showed.

The disruptions stemmed from weather that hit all major U.S. carriers.

Southwest Airlines, which has a big operation in Chicago and in Denver, canceled greater than 1,300 flights, a few third of its schedule, while 2,000 others, half of its schedule, were delayed.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Association, the airlines’ pilot union, said 52% of pilots were rerouted on Thursday.

James Garofalo of Colorado Springs is checking cellphone after his flight cancelation at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, December 22, 2022.

Hyoung Chang | Denver Post | Getty Images

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines canceled greater than 500 flights, or 65% of its schedule on Friday, and said planes and airport ramps were covered in thick sheets of ice, slowing its Pacific Northwest operations.

“While it’s difficult, especially at the moment of 12 months, we strongly encourage guests to reassess their must travel attributable to continued icy weather and limited availability,” it said on Friday. “On account of very full flights over the following several days, it’s prone to take several days to accommodate guests who need latest flights.”

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