Atlanta: Snow snarls flights at world's busiest airport
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FRIDAY'S UPDATE (Updated: Friday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m. ET): -- Flight cancellations spiked at the world's busiest airport Friday afternoon after a winter storm brought heavier-than-expected snow to Atlanta.
As of 6 p.m. ET, more than 815 flights had been canceled at Atlanta's airport, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. That represented about one-third of the entire day's schedule at the airport. The number of cancellations reported by FlightAware had spiked sharply more than tripling from the 165 that had been reported as of 11 a.m. ET.
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Delays were a problem too, with nearly a third of those still operating running late.
American, Delta, Southwest and United – the USA’s four biggest airlines – had already enacted weather-related waivers for Friday's Atlanta flights. JetBlue, Spirit and Frontier had also added flexible rebooking policies for Atlanta flights. The waivers covered Friday flights to or from Atlanta, where parts of the metro area now could see up to a half foot. Initial forecasts suggested just a wet inch or so. At the airport, precipitation had swung back and forth between moderate snow and a slushy rain-snow mix for much of Friday.
On mid-afternoon Friday, gate agents could be heard over making announcements that some flights were facing de-icing waits of up to three hours.
For Atlanta, even the hint of snow can create panic in Atlanta. The Southern metropolis sees snow infrequently, and light accumulations have been known to paralyze the city before.
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Delta is by far the dominant carrier at Atlanta, where it runs its busiest hub in Atlanta. The airline connects thousands of passengers through the airport every day. FlightAware showed that Delta had canceled 455 flights nationwide and delayed nearly 850 more as of 6 p.m. ET. The bulk of that total, which did not include flights on regional affiliates, was likely fallout from the winter weather in Atlanta.
"On Thursday, Delta initially canceled about 125 flights for Friday given the forecast for winter storms at its largest hub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and canceled an additional 250 flights as of noon Friday," Delta said in a statement.
The airline said it would "maintain a delayed operation to ensure flights are properly de-iced and continuously moving.," adding that it would "add cancellations or further delays as needed."
Southwest, which is the second-busiest airline in Atlanta, had canceled nearly 160 flights nationwide and faced delays on more than 650 others, according to FlightAware.
As for the airlines' rebooking policies, the precise rebooking details varied by carrier. Generally, eligible customers were permitted to make one change to their itineraries without paying the standard change fees that can cost $200 or more per passenger. Customers on the biggest airlines were able to move their flights to as late Monday (Dec. 11) at no cost, though customers should check their specific airline for the restrictions governing their itineraries.
For passengers wishing to move their flights to dates beyond those booking windows, most were allowing customers to apply the full value of their remaining ticket toward a newly booked one.
Beyond Atlanta, flights in the Texas city of Corpus Christi also were seeing above-average cancellations Friday after the first major snowfall there in more than a decade.
Flights disruptions also were significant in New Orleans, where snow and frozen precipitation fell not far from the city earlier Friday. Nearly a quarter of the entire day's schedule there was scrapped, and delays slowed many of those still operating.
Similarly, delays were running above average at the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston Bush Intercontinental and Houston Hobby airports in Texas. Some light snow fell around the Houston area early Friday, and unusually cold temperatures were in place there.
Scroll down for links to each of the airline's change fee waivers for Atlanta flights.
Contributing: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren from Atlanta
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