(Updates with information from airlines, analyst comment)
By Karen Jacobs
Jan 6 JetBlue Airways said it planned
to suspend flights at New York and Boston airports later on
Monday, and gradually resume them on Tuesday, as extreme cold
hobbled airline operations in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast
Temperatures below zero in the U.S. Midwest were making it
difficult for airlines to fuel planes and posing exposure
hazards for ramp employees.
The brunt of the impact was felt in areas such as Chicago,
Minneapolis and Cleveland. More than 1,600 flights were canceled
at Chicago O'Hare, an airport that typically has 2,400 daily
"Even though there is not a lot of precipitation falling,
extreme cold weather can severely impact operations," Andrea
Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Airlines Group, said
in an email.
American and American Eagle canceled more than 500 flights
on Monday, roughly 14 percent of its typical daily flights of
3,500. At Chicago O'Hare, American had "minimal operations" and
canceled nearly 380 flights, including American Eagle flights.
"The problem we - and other carriers - faced very early is
the fueling pumper trucks wouldn't work," said American
spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan. "Parts were frozen. Fuel
nozzles were also frozen and had to be taken to a hangar to thaw
out. It's slow going."
Southwest Airlines suspended flights at Chicago
Midway airport on Monday, also citing fueling problems. United
Continental Holdings canceled 460 flights at O'Hare,
including 380 on regional carriers.
JetBlue said halting its flights at John F. Kennedy
International, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and Boston Logan
airports would allow time to melt ice from its planes, position
flight crews and take other steps to recover from snow storms
that recently struck the Midwest and parts of the Northeast.
"It's a combination of everything that has had a domino
effect the last few days," JetBlue spokesman Anders Lindstrom
said. "As one of the largest carriers in the Northeast, weather
in this area impacts our entire route network and operations."
Winter and accompanying storms are a major issue for U.S.
airlines in the first quarter. Airlines typically will
proactively cancel flights during a major storm to minimize
David Fintzen, an airline analyst with Barclays, said it was
too soon to comment on financial impact from the flight
cancellations tied to the recent bad weather.
"Only thing I would say is that with U.S. airlines in much
stronger financial positions and investors increasingly focused
on the bigger industry picture, severe weather in any one
quarter is increasingly looked through by the markets," Fintzen
said in a statement to Reuters.
"Moreover, short-term weather impact is disruptive to
passengers but financially is a minor factor for earnings versus
trends in the overall economy or fuel prices," Fintzen added.
Delta Air Lines, which has major operations in
Minneapolis and the New York area, said it had 400 cancellations
across the Delta and Delta connection networks, out of a
systemwide total of more than 5,000 daily flights.
"We're treating today as a recovery day and things look
better for tomorrow," Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said.
Shares of JetBlue were down 4 percent at $8.68 on Monday as
most U.S. airlines traded weaker. Southwest shares were off 1.4
percent at $19.15. Delta was up 0.2 percent at $29.29 in
afternoon trading, while American Airlines gained 1.5 percent to
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Additional reporting by Nivedita
Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Editing by G Crosse and Steve