Southwest, other airlines waive fees, cancel flights


Airlines are canceling flights and expanding their rebooking waivers ahead of a new winter storm that looks increasingly likely to disrupt flights at airports from the Great Plains into the Northeast.

More than 275 flights had already been canceled for Wednesday, flight-tracking service FlightAware counted as of 12:40 p.m. ET on Tuesday.  

Most of those preemptive cancellations were made by Southwest, which canceled more than 100 combined arrivals and departures at Baltimore/Washington and another 85 at Chicago Midway. The airports are the busiest two in Southwest’s entire network based on the number of daily departures.

The cancellations were being made amid a forecast of wintry weather across the upper Midwest, Great Lakes and parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Wednesday. A mix of snow and ice was possible at many busy airports in the region. Up to a half foot of snow was possible around Washington and Baltimore, though the precipitation was expected to end as rain there amid rising temperatures.

USA TODAY: Snow, ice, torrential rain bringing weather havoc to 39 states, 200 million people

Airlines were issuing flexible rebooking policies as the poor weather approached.

Delta and JetBlue rolled out change-fee waivers on Wednesday while Southwest and United expanded ones already in place.

Other airlines were likely to do the same.

For now, Delta’s covered Wednesday travel to nine airports from the greater New York City area south through Philadelphia and into Baltimore and Washington.

United, which had been waiving change fees for Tuesday flights to Chicago O’Hare, expanded its policy to include nearly 50 airports. United’s policy covered Tuesday flights to 10 airports in the Great Plains and Wednesday flights to the others, which spanned from Minnesota and Wisconsin east to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

Southwest had two policies, one covering the “Midwest” and the other the “Ohio Valley and Northeast.” More than two dozen airports were included, with either Tuesday or Wednesday flights covered depending on the city.

JetBlue’s waiver, also issued on Wednesday, covered Wednesday flights at six airports (Baltimore/Washington; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Richmond, Virginia; and Washington Reagan National).

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