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Severe Weather Grounds Transatlantic Flights in U.S. and Europe before Christmas

A severe winter storm making its way across the U.S. has disrupted hundreds of flights, while passengers in Europe have also been affected by cancellations

by Fergus Cole

December 22, 2022

Photo: Courtesy of Andre Furtado / Unsplash

Hundreds of flights have been canceled in the U.S. and dozens more in the U.K. as severe winter weather and technical issues threaten to ruin family Christmas plans on both sides of the Atlantic.

According to FlightAware’s flight tracking data, more than 1,000 domestic flights in the U.S. were canceled on Wednesday due to an extreme cold weather front moving across the country. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse for travelers on Thursday, with at least 840 flights canceled across the U.S.

According to the National Weather Service, the winter storm making its way across the U.S. and causing travel disruptions is a ‘once in a generation type event.’ Winter weather alerts stretch across 37 states, with the Midwest expecting blizzards and over a foot of snow before the weather front moves eastwards.

“We’re looking at major airports impacted by delays and cancellations, including Denver, Chicago, Houston, possibly Atlanta, and later into the weekend, highly-trafficked New York area airports as weather systems move East,” said Kathleen Bangs, a spokesperson for FlightAware. “But really, if things play out as the major weather forecasters are predicting, then hundreds of airports could be affected.”

While many airports and airlines have been or will be affected by the extreme weather, Midwestern cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Detroit are expected to be the worst hit.

Scott Keyes, the founder of budget travel site Scott’s Cheap Flights, told CNN, “Chicago is a major hub for American, United, and Southwest, and that’s not even counting nearby Delta hubs Minneapolis and Detroit. So flight disruptions in the Midwest have the potential to snarl not only people going to Chicago but millions of passengers whose itineraries just had them connecting in Chicago.”

However, passengers whose flights have been canceled will be pleased to know that they will be entitled to a full refund due to rules laid out by the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT). But airlines are less inclined to offer refunds for delayed flights due to the weather, although they typically allow customers greater flexibility to change their flights.

American AirlinesUnited AirlinesDelta Air LinesSouthwest AirlinesFrontier AirlinesSpirit Airlines, and JetBlue are all offering passengers whose flights have been affected the option to push back their flights. However, details about which flights are eligible and when they can be rescheduled differ slightly between each carrier.

Flight cancellations have also affected passengers from across the pond looking for a Christmas getaway. At least 35 British Airways flights from North America and the Caribbean to London airports were canceled or severely delayed earlier this week due to technical issues. Flights canceled include services from Boston, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, New York JFK, and Washington D.C.