American Airlines Preemptively Cancels Hundreds of Flights Before Jonas Hits
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American Airlines has announced that it will be canceling most of its flights in the Mid Atlantic and the Northeast ahead of a major snowstorm that is forecast to hit the region over the weekend. On Thursday afternoon, the largest airline in the U.S. announced the cancelations and promised full refunds or fee-free ticket changes for people on canceled flights. The airline has said that it has reached out to passengers via email to let them know about the different options for changing their flight or getting a refund.
The groundings will start on Friday. American has not only announced that it has canceled more than 600 Friday flights out of its hub at Charlotte Douglas International, but it is also going to be moving all its aircraft out of the airport until the storm has passed. Based on current forecasts, the airline should resume regular service sometime on Saturday morning.
American made this decision despite Charlotte’s assurances that they would do their best to keep their runways open during the snow. They will be deploying snow crews to plow and treat runways starting at 11 pm on Thursday and continuing until the storm has passed North Carolina.
American will stop flying out of Baltimore and Washington-area airports on Friday afternoon, and their planes will stay on the ground in the nation's capital until the skies have cleared on Sunday.
The storm, which has been dubbed Winter Storm Jonas, will reach the New York City area sometime on Saturday. AA will cease operations at all three New York area airports after noontime. If the storm passes as expected, service will be resumed on Sunday.
The unprecedented number of cancelations will affect some airports more than others. At Philadelphia International, where American operates about three quarters of all flights, the terminals could look like ghost towns on Saturday, when all AA flights are canceled (the airline will be operating a reduced schedule on Friday afternoon in Philly as well).
Overall, American said that it expects the storm to affect 42 East Coast airports.
Why did the airline take this seemingly drastic action so early? Surely, they have access to the absolute best and latest weather forecasts, but what if the storm changes track or the snowfall totals end up not being as dramatic as expected? They will lose an entire weekend’s worth of revenue because they pulled the trigger on cancellations too early.
Other major carriers are currently telling passengers that they can cancel or reschedule their flights without incurring penalties. Time will tell if American will come out of the storm looking like an industry leader of if it will simply be branded as being overcautious.
One thing that American’s cancellations will help with is delays at other airports. Planes headed to the East Coast from other parts of the country won’t be stuck at gates or on the tarmac because runways have been shut down at their destination. In regions unaffected by the snowstorm, it will be business as usual, at least for American planes.
According to the latest forecasts, the storm will bring between one and two feet of snow to a large area between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Regions to the north and south could also see significant snowfall.
More by Josh Lew
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