Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nearly 1,500 Flights Canceled Today in New York, As Some Airlines Warn Passengers That Conditions in the Big Apple Still Blow

[UPDATED, 7 p.m. EST]
One might assume that long after the snowstorm has ended, the airlines at least would no longer be canceling flights in large numbers at the New York airports.

Ah, but one would assume wrongly.

This "one" -- that is, me, -- I assumed that all is vastly improved in New York, now that the frozen debris (which is how I now regard snow: debris) has all accumulated and is, presumably, under control. This is easy for me to assume, from my perch across the country in the sunny southern Arizona desert.

But no: Almost 1,500 flights were canceled today in New York, which remains pretty snowbound if not snowy. The frigid gusts of winds still blow, I am informed by my pal Joe Brancatelli in New York. "This was a classic blizzard, man, and it doesn't go away in a day and a half," he says. Public fury is rising in New York as many streets remain impassable, and reports come in about failures of city services like 911 systems. New York's sarcastic billionaire mayor isn't, evidently, helping matters much.

Major flight cancellations continue (along with severe delays). Across the river from Manhattan, at the hilariously named Newark Liberty International Airport, so far today there were 718 departures and arrivals canceled as of 7 p.m. EST. At Kennedy, the number was 577 canceled flights for today. At La Guardia, it's 202. Also, they're even already canceling some flights for tomorrow at Newark, Kennedy and La Guardia. [Departures and arrivals count equally in these data because no flight that leaves any of the New York airports arrives at another New York airport]

As usual, the flight-operations data are from the absolutely invaluable FlightStats.com

The Web site of Continental Airlines right now sounds like this ain't no fooling around: The hilarious named Newark Liberty International Airport has "limited operations," the Continental notice said at 7 p.m. Of flights that were even departing, the average delay at 7 p.m. was 4 hours and 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, some dopes in the media are credulously reporting airline assurances that passengers stranded by the cancellations that started Saturday will be easily accommodated within days. Trust me, this is not so. There are x-number of seats and airplanes available, and especially in a holiday travel period, these were almost all already booked before the blizzard hit. Then a total of more than 8,000 flights got canceled nationwide, from Saturday through today.

Maybe grandma could fit 20 pounds of stuffing into a 15-pound turkey, but the physics doesn't work out that way in air travel.

But here is a good summary today of the airline capacity-and-demand equation from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog on NYTimes.com.

Meanwhile, do not -- repeat not -- use the totally worthless F.A.A. Web site link for flight delays and cancellations. It's utterly unreliable, although some of the national media (yeah, I'm talking to you, CNN) still bafflingly refer to it.

Incidentally, from this perch in the sunny Arizona desert, you know what I do not miss even a tiny little bit? Waking up early in the morning after a storm and hearing that horrifying scraape, scraape noise from some invincibly perky neighbor's snow-shovel.


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