Rare snow in South halts air travel
By Harry R. Weber
ATLANTA — Airlines canceled nearly 1,900 flights yesterday as snow pounded parts of the South and dumped several inches of white on Atlanta, home to the world's busiest airport.
Light to moderate snow fell steadily throughout the afternoon in Atlanta and its northern suburbs. It wasn't expected to taper off until late evening. There was a chance of more snow for the area on Monday, a federal holiday when many workers will have the day off.
Snow totals weren't expected to be big by mid-Atlantic and Northeast standards, but for a region of the country that rarely gets snow and doesn't budget snow and ice removal the way other parts of the country do, airlines weren't taking any chances.
That left thousands of passengers looking for other travel options.
Airline passengers were encouraged to check the status of their flights online before leaving for airports. Passengers seemed to be heeding that advice. Officials reported short lines at ticket counters at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Other flights early in the day before the snow hit were taking off on time and the airport was pretreating taxiways and runways to slow the buildup of snow and ice.
The latest cancellations piggybacked on thousands of others since Feb. 4, the day before the first of the double whammy snowstorms hit the Washington area and then buried the Northeast.
The financial toll the airlines face from all the cancellations was still being tabulated. It could easily total in the millions of dollars, judging by the number of cancellations.
Delta Air Lines, based in Atlanta, and its feeder partners canceled 1,100 flights, expecting 2 to 4 inches of snow in the metro Atlanta area.
American Airlines and its American Eagle affiliate canceled about 500 flights yesterday, including 240 departures at its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The snowfall there made this the snowiest winter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 32 seasons.
Back in Atlanta, AirTran Airways canceled 89 flights because of the snow.
Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, had about 100 cancellations yesterday.
US Airways had 61 cancellations yesterday, while United Airlines, which is relatively small in the South compared to other carriers, canceled 40 flights, according to spokeswomen for the two carriers.
JetBlue Airways, based in New York, didn't cancel any flights yesterday, but did cancel all flights out of the New York metro area, Richmond, Va., Washington and Baltimore on Wednesday for a total of 387 flights canceled that day. It canceled an additional 105 flights on Thursday, spokesman Mateo Lleras said.
Continental Airlines, based in Houston, had no cancellations yesterday.
Since Feb. 4, US Airways has canceled 5,314 flights systemwide due to weather and Southwest has canceled more than 2,800. Delta has canceled roughly 4,300 flights systemwide since Feb. 5. JetBlue has canceled 624 flights since Feb. 5 due to weather.