Nearly 2,000 flights canceled: Major snowstorm compounds Boeing 737 MAX disruptions

Mother Nature has not been kind to travelers this long weekend. The Midwest is experiencing heavy snowfall, causing major disruptions at Chicago’s airports and potentially affecting flights across the country. Additionally, the East Coast is bracing for more bad weather, which could lead to further delays and cancellations.

As of late morning on Friday, nearly 1,900 flights had been canceled nationwide, according to FlightAware data. These weather-related issues are compounding the challenges faced by two major U.S. airlines, which are already dealing with the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft following an emergency incident on an Alaska Airlines flight.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport have been hit particularly hard, with hundreds of cancellations reported. The Federal Aviation Administration implemented a ground stop at O’Hare, temporarily halting all takeoffs and landings due to the storm. Even after operations resumed, delays of at least two hours were expected due to snow and ice.

Southwest Airlines has been the most affected U.S. carrier, with at least 385 flights canceled and numerous others delayed. This represents approximately 9% of Southwest’s operation. Regional carrier Skywest, operating flights for American, Delta, United, and Alaska Airlines, had also canceled around 330 flights by late morning Friday.

The inclement weather will test Southwest’s operations at its major hub in Midway, where the airline has taken measures to improve its winter weather ground equipment. Southwest experienced a major operational meltdown in December 2022 due to weather-related issues and aims to avoid a similar situation this time.

However, Southwest is not the only airline facing challenges. Alaska and United Airlines have had to cancel hundreds of daily flights due to the grounding of their 737 MAX 9 aircraft. These planes are currently unable to fly as investigations are carried out to determine if other similar jets are at risk of the same issues that occurred on the Alaska flight last Friday. This grounding, combined with the weather disruptions, has led to significant disruptions at key hubs like Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.

What can travelers do if their flights are canceled? Unfortunately, when weather is to blame, airlines are typically not responsible for additional expenses such as hotel accommodations in case of being stranded. However, if travelers have booked their trips with a travel credit card that includes trip insurance protections, they may be able to offset some unexpected costs. Additionally, some airlines have implemented travel waivers, allowing passengers to change their itineraries with no penalty. Southwest, for example, has issued a waiver for flights in and out of Midwest airports affected by the winter weather.

It’s worth noting that under federal regulations, passengers are entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled or significantly delayed and they choose not to travel.

In conclusion, the combination of severe weather and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft has resulted in a messy start to the long weekend for air travel. Travelers are advised to stay informed, check for travel waivers, and consider their options if their flights are disrupted.

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