Travelers across the United States are divided into two groups: those caught up in the logistical turmoil caused by the “bomb cyclone” and those who are spared, at least for now.
Major airports in Cleveland, Buffalo and Chicago reported Friday morning that more than half of their outbound flights had been canceled, according to Flight Aware, a flight tracking service. Freezing rain caused the closure of all trails at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, scrambling vacation travel plans for thousands.
Some carriers, including Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air, canceled more than a third of their flights on Friday. More than 400 Southwest Airlines flights have been delayed. Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet and its subsidiary Swoop reported the highest cancellation rates: 55% and 72%, respectively.
But airport hubs in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles were seeing just 2-3% of canceled departures Friday morning.
“It feels like a pretty normal trip for me,” said Caroline Neary, who holds a Ph.D. student who was flying home for Christmas on Friday from Houston to West Palm Beach, Fla., to Atlanta. “I was worried about the ripple effects of the storms elsewhere, but saw no major cancellations or delays to my trip.”
The wave of colder weather is expected to arrive in New York on Friday evening, preceded by gusty winds, and reach Miami on Saturday morning, leaving many travelers bracing for the worst.
Weather disruptions are striking just as travel volume is approaching pre-pandemic levels. In mid-December, AAA predicted nearly 7.2 million Americans would fly between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, and another 102 million would drive at least 50 miles for the holidays.
An expected increase in holiday travel has added to the stress, with travelers complaining on social media about long queues at airport check-in counters and delays on the tarmac. By late Friday morning, disruptions elsewhere in the country had begun to affect places that had been spared so far, including San Diego and Houston.
Although the East Coast was still waiting for the brunt of the storm, the headaches for travelers to the region had already started Friday morning. Boston’s Logan Airport reported that 25% of its outbound flights were canceled, and La Guardia Airport saw a third of departures canceled. In Buffalo, nearly four-fifths of scheduled arrivals had been canceled.
“The whole system feels it when one or two major hubs are hit,” said Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg. said Friday morning. “Right now we have several major airline hubs impacted.”
Many outbound flights have been canceled not because of poor conditions at that airport, but because bad weather elsewhere has delayed or disrupted an earlier arriving flight, leaving no aircraft available where needed.
Major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta and United, said they were waiving change fees for some travelers affected by inclement weather.
Ice and snow hampered movement on the ground and in the air. Amtrak announced Wednesday that it was canceling trains on its Midwestern routes, including those between Chicago and Michigan, throughout the weekend, out of “excess caution.” On Friday, he added several Vermont routes to the list.
Power outages across the country have left more than a million customers without power and posed additional problems hazards and delays for drivers.