This Saturday evening (Jan. 31, 2015) screenshot of USA TODAY's Weather page shows a major storm moving east through the Great Lakes.(Photo: USA TODAY Weather)
Air travelers faced a new round of headaches Sunday from a major winter storm, the second to disrupt air travel in a week.
More than 4,560 flights had been canceled through Monday. Additionally, most big airlines had issued weather waivers that allowed passengers flying to airports in the storm's path to change their flight plans without paying the standard change fees. Carriers issuing weather waivers included American, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, Southwest, United, US Airways and Virgin America. Details, dates and cites covered by the waivers varied by airline.
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Also, as they did ahead of last week's storm that snarled flights in the Northeast, airlines began preemptively began cancelling flights ahead of this latest system. More than 1,200 cancellations for Sunday and Monday were already in the books by Saturday evening, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. The disruption comes less than a week after the last big storm, which prompted airlines to ground more than 8,100 flights across the nation from Monday through Wednesday.
This time around, the overall cancellation tally stood at about 4,560, as of 10:40 p.m. ET on Sunday. That included 2,010 flights already grounded for Monday.
The worst of Sunday's cancellations came in Chicago, where up to a foot of snow was forecast for the metro area. FlightAware counted about 1,375 cancellations at Chicago's busy O'Hare airport and more than 300 at Chicago Midway as of at 10:40 p.m. ET. About 220 Detroit flights had been canceled Sunday and about 50 in Cleveland. And the cancellation totals also began to mount at New York City's delay-prone airports, with more than 110 cancellations at Newark and nearly as many at JFK and LaGuardia.
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Those cancellations were rippling out to affect airports across the country. Atlanta, Newark Liberty, Houston Bush Intercontinental and Washington Reagan National were among numerous other airports that dozens of cancellations Sunday. Cancellations had spread even to sunny Los Angeles and Orlando, where more than 50 flights had been grounded at each of those city's major airports. Even in Phoenix -- where the Super Bowl was to be played under clear skies -- more than 115 flights had been canceled as of 10:40 p.m. ET. That represented about 8% of all the day's flights at the airport, according to FlightAware.
More than half of Sunday's cancellations came on regional carriers that fly feeder flights for the major airlines. Envoy, a regional unit of American, led all carriers with 425 systemwide cancellations as of 10:40 p.m. ET. That mean Envoy had grounded nearly 40% of its nationwide schedule Sunday.
The major carriers were suffering cancellations on their own planes, as well. Southwest about 400 cancellations as of 10:40 p.m. ET while American had about 250. United had about 180 cancellations as of the same time and US Airways more than 90. At JetBlue, more than 40 Sunday flights had been grounded.
The storm was expected to move east by Sunday evening and into Monday, meaning more flights would likely be canceled as the storm unfolded.
So far for Monday, most of the preemptive cancellations came at Newark Liberty, where airlines had axed more than 550 flights -- about half of the airport's entire daily schedule -- as 10:40 p.m. ET Sunday. More than 320 flights (about a third of Monday's schedule) had already been grounded at Boston and about 520 at Chicago O'Hare (20%), according to FlightAware.
On Monday, too, the cancellations to the north were beginning to affect flights in warm-weather destinations. Nearly 50 Monday flights had been preemptively grounded in Orlando and about two dozen in West Palm Beach. Most of those cancellations were likely flights scheduled to fly to Chicago, Newark, Boston and other airports grappling with a new round of flight disruptions.
More broadly, the storm could continue to affect fliers across the country -- even in cities under calm skies. A flight from Orlando to Houston, for example, could become delayed or canceled if the crew or aircraft slated to operate that route gets knocked off schedule by the problems in the North.
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