Arctic freeze disrupts North American air travel

Reuters

By Karen Jacobs

(Reuters) - Glacial temperatures gripping large parts of the United States and Canada disrupted thousands of flights on Tuesday, creating more challenges for airlines seeking to recover from recent snow and ice storms.

JetBlue Airways resumed departures from New York and Boston airports after shutting down flights in those cities on Monday evening to protect crews and aircraft as it sought to recover from recent snow and low temperatures.

A frigid blast of arctic air that broke decades-old records in the middle United States moved eastward on Tuesday. The cold weather froze fueling equipment for planes, forcing airlines to cancel flights.

Delta Air Lines said ice and snow at its Detroit hub that disabled fuel gear led it to suspend regional flights there on Tuesday. Air Canada said flights to, from or connecting through 15 airports in Canada and the U.S. Northeast could be delayed or canceled into Thursday.

Overall, more than 2,900 flights had been canceled on Tuesday, according to flight tracker FlightAware.com. That compared with nearly 4,600 cancellations on Monday.

Among major carriers, Southwest had canceled 309 flights on Tuesday and JetBlue had 216 cancellations, according to FlightAware.com. United Continental had 117 halted flights, and American Airlines and its American Eagle unit had 500 cancellations combined.

Airports taking the hardest hit were Chicago O'Hare, where 383 flights, or about 31 percent, of flights were canceled; and Toronto Pearson, where 119 flights, or 19 percent of its total, were halted.

At Chicago O'Hare, American put its fueling pumper and tanker trucks in a hangar to keep them from freezing, spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said. Fueling was "slow but consistent," Fagan said in an email.

United was operating a reduced schedule at O'Hare because of continued effects of cold weather, spokeswoman Mary Clark noted.

Toronto's Pearson International Airport said the gusty winds and extreme cold weather, which Environment Canada said was minus 37 degrees Celsius (minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit) with wind chill, was causing equipment to freeze and posing a safety concern for workers.

JETBLUE TO FEEL MORE FINANCIAL IMPACT

Winter storms are a major issue for airlines in the first quarter. Savanthi Syth, an airline analyst with Raymond James, said it was too early to assess the specific financial impact from the latest storms and cancellations. She added that JetBlue's results would likely be more affected than those of carriers that have more geographically diversified networks.

JetBlue has most of its operations in the U.S. Northeast, and its network was also hurt by weekend runway shutdowns at JFK airport, where it has a major base, she said.

"Outside of JetBlue, I don't think the impacts (for other airlines) on an earnings basis will be that meaningful," Syth said.

Dan Baker, chief executive at FlightAware, said the current spate of cancellations tied to winter weather was not the worst airlines have seen compared with other storms in recent years.

"We're seeing only about 3,000 flights canceled a day; we've certainly seen 5,000 and above that (with other storms)," Baker said. "The reason this (current situation) is really impactful is it's tied with extreme temperatures that are so unusual."

New U.S. government rules requiring more rest for pilots took effect this month and were a "complicating factor" in recent flight cancellations, JetBlue told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration rules, which stem from a 2009 crash near Buffalo, New York, call for pilots to have 10 hours off the job before flying, compared with eight previously. The rules took effect on Saturday.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta, with additional reporting by Solarina Ho in Toronto; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)

View Comments (3)

Recommended for You

  • Republicans warn world that Obama U.N. plan could be undone

    By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration's plan for U.N. climate change talks encountered swift opposition after its release Tuesday, with Republican leaders warning other countries to "proceed with caution" in negotiations with Washington because any deal could be…

    Reuters
  • California getting 'second-hand smog' from Asia, researchers say

    By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - California is suffering from "second-hand smog" drifting in from Asia and other places, researchers said on Tuesday, even as the state's prolonged drought has made air quality worse. About 10 percent of ozone pollution, the main ingredient in…

    Reuters
  • Hurricane-strength winds pummel Europe, four killed

    By Michael Hogan HAMBURG (Reuters) - At least four people were killed on Tuesday when hurricane-force winds lashed northern Europe in one of the most severe storms in years, forcing flights to be canceled and disrupting road, train and marine traffic. The Dutch meteorological office issued a red…

    Reuters
  • United States sets official strategy for Paris climate talks

    By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Tuesday published plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, part of a strategy to generate momentum for a global agreement later this year on combating climate change. The formal…

    Reuters
  • Air and sea traffic disrupted as 120 km winds batter Netherlands

    Spring storms battered the Netherlands with gusts of up to 120 kilometers an hour on Tuesday, causing Amsterdam's Schiphol airport to cancel flights and the closure of two container terminals at the port of Rotterdam. Gale force winds sweeping in from the North Sea disrupted land and marine…

    Reuters
  • Heavy rains trigger flood fears in Kashmir; 17 dead

    By Fayaz Bukhari SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Heavy rains and a landslide in the Himalayan region of Kashmir killed 17 people, police said on Tuesday, as Indian authorities continued working to rescue stranded villagers, with unseasonal rains raising fears of flash floods in the mountainous north. …

    Reuters
  • Ocean warming suggests 50 percent chance of El Nino-Australia

    By Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) - Recent warming of the Pacific Ocean may signal an El Nino weather event is forming, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday. Climate models indicate the central tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to continue to warm, with El Nino thresholds to be…

    Reuters
  • Vanuatu risks long-term food insecurity after monster cyclone: U.N.

    By Alisa Tang BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The monster cyclone that hit Vanuatu earlier this month wiped out more than 90 percent of the archipelago's crops, putting its people at risk of a secondary emergency and long-term food insecurity, the United Nations warned on Monday. Tropical…

    Reuters
  • Heavy rains trigger flood fears in Kashmir; six dead

    By Fayaz Bukhari SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - A landslide in the Himalayan region of Kashmir killed six people and left 10 missing, police said on Monday, as unseasonal rains swept India, damaging crops and raising fears of flash floods in the mountainous north. Hundreds of people fled their homes…

    Reuters
  • Harsh weather cripples fishing and tourism on Cameroon's coast

    By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame KRIBI, Cameroon (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - For over 15 years, Raoul Meno has been fishing the waters off the coastal town of Kribi in southern Cameroon. A bout of persistent heavy rains and surging tides this year has made fishing in Kribi increasingly difficult and…

    Reuters
  • Air Canada plane landed short, hit antennas in Halifax accident

    By Mark Blinch HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - An Air Canada plane that suffered heavy damage in an accident in the east coast city of Halifax on Sunday landed short of the runway and hit an antenna array, losing its landing gear, safety officials said. "They touched down 1,100 feet (335 meters)…

    Reuters
  • U.S. to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay

    By Alister Doyle and Valerie Volcovici OSLO/WASHINGTON - The United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December. The U.S.…

    Reuters
  • Modi's popularity in rural India punctured by discontent, suicides

    By Mayank Bhardwaj VAIDI, India (Reuters) - Over a dozen debt-laden farmers have committed suicide in recent weeks in India, and discontent in many rural areas against government policies is turning into anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi less than a year after he swept into office. …

    Reuters
  • Chile desert rains sign of climate change: chief weather scientist

    By Rosalba O'Brien SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The heavy rainfall that battered Chile's usually arid north this week happened because of climate change, a senior meteorologist said, as the region gradually returns to normal after rivers broke banks and villages were cut off. "For Chile, this particular…

    Reuters
  • Mexico unveils national strategy for Paris climate talks

    By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexico on Friday said it will cap its greenhouse gas emissions by 2026, becoming one of the first countries to formally submit its national climate plan to the United Nations ahead of a climate summit in Paris in December. Mexico's Foreign and…

    Reuters
  • Fed must take account of global economy in U.S. outlook: Yellen

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve must take the global economy into account when judging the U.S. domestic outlook, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday, noting that a stronger dollar buoyed by weakness abroad may restrain U.S. exports Still, she added, U.S. consumer…

    Reuters
  • In reversal, crash-hit Lufthansa agrees to two-crew in cockpit rule

    Lufthansa said on Friday it would introduce new rules requiring two crew members in cockpits at all times, a swift reversal after its CEO said such a change was not needed despite the crash at its Germanwings subsidiary. The European Union said it would now advise all EU airlines to require two…

    Reuters
  • Sierra Leone capital 'eerily quiet' amid Ebola lockdown

    By Umaru Fofana FREETOWN (Reuters) - The capital of Sierra Leone was "eerily quiet" on Friday at the start of a three-day national lockdown aimed at accelerating the end of an Ebola epidemic in the worst affected country. Liberia has just one known case left and the three countries have set a…

    Reuters
  • Lufthansa to toughen up cockpit rules

    Lufthansa said it will introduce new rules requiring two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times after one of the pilots at its Germanwings unit crashed a plane in the French Alps. Prosecutors believe Andreas Lubitz, 27, locked himself alone in the cockpit of the Airbus A320 on Tuesday and…

    Reuters
  • Poland to charge two Russian officials over Kaczynski plane crash

    Poland said on Friday it would bring charges against two Russian air traffic controllers over a 2010 plane crash which killed then Polish president Lech Kaczynski, a move likely to damage bilateral relations already strained by the Ukraine crisis. Prosecutor Ireneusz Szelag from the District…

    Reuters