By Karen Jacobs
Jan 7 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
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,
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
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.