Airlines are suspending New York and Boston service after scrubbing about 4,000 flights because of a winter storm threatening the northeastern U.S. with heavy snowfall and high winds.
Carriers halting flights included Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp. All four have hubs or bases in New York, the busiest U.S. aviation market, and plan to resume operations as early as tomorrow afternoon.
The storm, already pelting New York with light snow and rain, may cause more than 100,000 power outages in a region still recovering from flooding and mass blackouts during Hurricane Sandy in October. Possible accumulation of 1 foot in New York City to 2 feet in Boston has interrupted passenger rail as well as air service, forcing travelers to reschedule.
“I figured it was better to have a sure thing,” said 36-year-old Tiffany West, a New Yorker who delayed her departure for a Colorado skip trip from Saturday to Sunday. “I’m missing a day of vacation, but one day isn’t going to kill me.”
As much as 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow may fall across eastern Long Island and Connecticut beginning tonight, as temperatures drop, the National Weather Service said. Winds are expected to gust 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour or more across a large part of the Northeast at the height of the storm, the weather service said.
Blizzard warnings stretch from the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into the U.S., from Maine to Newark, New Jersey, according to the weather agencies in both countries.
“We will continue to monitor and adjust our operations as needed,” said Mateo Lleras, a JetBlue spokesman. New York and Boston are home to some of JetBlue’s largest operations, and both are in the path of the storm.
The tally of scrapped flights was provided by FlightAware.com, a Houston-based company that tracks flight data and cancellations. The figure probably will rise as carriers reassess their schedules when the storm moves through.
Among the airports most affected are Logan International in Boston, Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia in New York, and O’Hare International in Chicago, according to the airlines and FlightAware.
“It will be OK,” said West, who works for the World Economic Forum and is flying on United. “Now I have Saturday. I can just relax and have fun, rather than waiting at the airport when all the flights are going to get canceled.”
Pre-emptive groundings allow airlines to reposition aircraft ahead of foul weather, keeping planes and people out of harm’s way and enabling carriers to restore service more quickly once flying conditions improve.
United, Delta and American, the three biggest carriers in the U.S., joined competitors in issuing travel waivers letting passengers change flights in the region without a penalty.
“We are doing all we can to accommodate our customers,” Kent Powell, an American spokesman, said yesterday. “We’ve added extra flights out of the areas most directly impacted by the storm and will look to fly additional flights into these cities as weather conditions improve.”