Airlines cancel flights, waive change fees

Last update 7:50 a.m. ET. Next update: By 11 a.m. ET.

Air travelers faced a mess Tuesday as a winter storm system moved across the Midwest and Northeast.

A mix of snow, ice and heavy rain were forecast from Minnesota to Maine on Tuesday morning, and flights were already being affected. Nearly all big airlines were waiving change fees for airports in the storm’s path. 

More than 1,615 flights had been canceled nationwide and another 300 delayed as of 7:50 a.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.

More than 1,200 of those cancellations were made by late Monday as airlines adjusted their schedules in anticipation of Tuesday’s poor weather.

Flight problems were widespread, affecting dozens of airports from coast to coast.

New York’s delay-prone LaGuardia Airport was among the hardest hit early Tuesday. More than 400 combined arrivals and departures had been canceled there, affecting more than a third of the entire day’s schedule.

There were problems at the New York City area’s two other busy passenger airports. Nearly 20 percent of Tuesday’s flights had been canceled at JFK and about 8 percent at Newark Liberty.

In Boston, more than 10 percent of the day’s flights were canceled as wintry weather moved in there. Other Northeast airports seeing a significant spike in cancellations Tuesday included Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington Reagan National; Pittsburgh; Rochester, New York; and Harford, Connecticut.

In the Midwest, about 15 percent of the entire day’s schedule was canceled at Chicago Midway. Across town at O’Hare, more than 10 percent of flights had been canceled so far on Tuesday.

Numerous other Midwest airports were grappling with weather cancellations Tuesday, including Detroit, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, among others.

On the West Coast, cancellations remained a problem in the Northwest after heavy snow there.  About 110 flights were canceled in Seattle after more than a foot of snow fell in the region from a storm that wound down Monday. That accounted for about 10 percent of the day’s schedule in Seattle, but it was down sharply from Monday, when more than 400 combined arrivals and departures (about 30 percent of all Monday flights) were canceled.  In Portland, Oregon, a small number of cancellations lingered Tuesday after bigger problems a day earlier.

Most big U.S. carriers had enacted flexible rebooking waivers for the weather.

The details varied by airline, but – generally and with some fine print – they allowed eligible customers to make one change to their itineraries without paying a change fee or recalculated fare.

Some carriers rolled out broad waivers while others issued multiple waivers covering different parts of the country. The links to airline waivers are below.

Alaska Airlines: Pacific Northwest waiver

American: Northeast and Pacific Northwest

Delta: Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Northeast

JetBlue: Northeast and Pacific Northwest

Southwest: Pacific Northwest, Midwest, Northeast

Spirit: Northeast

United: Northeast

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