Sunday, December 20, 2009

Major Flight Cancellations Continue; Rough Air-Travel Week Ahead

[UPDATED 4 p.m. Eastern Time]

Airlines continued to cancel large numbers of flights today at airports in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston.

Yesterday, as the blizzard moved up the East Coast, more than 3,000 departures and arrivals were scrubbed at the three New York airports, at Philadelphia and at Dulles, Washington Reagan and Baltimore-Washington. As of 4 p.m. Eastern time today, more than 2,500 additional departures and arrivals had been canceled at those airports, now including Boston.

That's a whole lot of flights (a minority of them were routed between affected airports and are thus counted twice, as both departures and arrivals) -- each one presumably booked full with passengers, that did not occur in a two-day period. At the start of the Christmas travel season, most of those passengers who didn't fly today and yesterday are now trying to re-book seats into a system that is already fully booked, because airplanes have been flying almost full for well over a year as airlines have shrunk capacity.

How do the airlines work out of this fix? My guess is, they don't. There are x-number of airplanes and x-number of seats (mostly already sold before the storm). At the airports this week, it's not going to be a very pretty sight.

The media weather hysterics have now settled down about the amount of the "white stuff," as so many of them quaintly refer to it, and taken to their beds in exhaustion of all of their cliches.

Meanwhile, as the Northeast "digs out," which is another cliche they love, it's time to pay attention to the airports. The Newark newspaper was reporting gamely last night that "more than 100" flights had been canceled at the hilariously named Newark Liberty International Airport. Well, I guess that would be correct, since 412 flights were canceled there yesterday. You could look it up, and if you're a reporter, you should have.

According to data from, here are today's cancellation numbers at the New York, Philly and Washington airports, and at Boston as of 4 p.m.

Newark -- 286 flights canceled.

JFK -- 475

LaGuardia -- 366

Philadelphia -- 486

Dulles -- 170

Reagan -- 212

Baltimore-Washington -- 135

Boston -- 312


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