New year brings more canceled flights for air travelers

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The new year is bringing more of the same old misery that air travelers in the United States have been suffering from for more than a week

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For air travelers, the new year began where the old one left off – much to the dismay.

As of mid-Saturday, more than 2,300 US flights to the East Coast had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware.

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However, Saturday’s disruptions were not solely due to the virus. The chilly weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights at O’Hare Airport and over 250 at Midway Airport. Nine inches of snow forecast. Denver, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, were each hit with at least 100 cancellations.

Southwest Airlines, which has major operations in Chicago Midway and Denver, canceled more than 450 flights nationwide, or 13% of its schedule, as of midday. American, Delta, United and JetBlue each scrubbed more than 100 flights.

SkyWest, a regional carrier that operates flights under the names American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, halted more than 400 flights, or 21% of its schedule.

Airlines say they are taking steps to reduce cancellations. United is offering pilots three or more times their normal pay to take open flights by mid-January. Southwest and others have also raised premium pay for some workers.

When winter arrived in the Pacific Northwest earlier this week, Alaska Airlines urged customers to delay planning any “non-essential” travel this weekend. With flights full on New Year’s break, the airline said it was not sure it could rebook passengers stranded for at least three days.

Passengers stranded on the roads instead of the skies also faced challenges. Transportation officials in the Midwest warned motorists that the mix of rain and snow could make roads slippery and reduce visibility, creating dangerous driving conditions.

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