As of Friday, December 23rd, two days before Christmas and a day before Christmas Eve, over 6300 flights across the U.S. were cancelled, after 2700 were cancelled the day before. The unexpected winter freeze weather has caused a lot of travel chaos during the busiest travel days of the year.
Many delayed flights on Friday were for flights around the Seattle area, with 210 flights canceled out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport alone. LaGuardia Airport in New York also canceled about 190 flights by Friday morning. Southwest Airlines canceled a whopping 790 flights total.
These issues in air travel come after serious weather warnings due to the major storm that’s threatening the Pacific Northwest with freezing rain and ice, which are not great for flights. All travel is recommended to be avoided until the temperatures go back up enough for the ice to start to melt, as the National Weather Service tweeted.
The arctic freeze blast moved along to the East Coast, prompting many airlines to issue flight waivers. It was expected that 113 million people would travel from between December 22nd and January 2nd. Of course, this has thrown a wrench in many people’s holiday travel plans.
Pete Buttigieg, Department of Transportation Secretary, has said that while there are still enough airline and airport staff available to deal with the increased travel, he did say that “there’s not a lot of cushion.”
Buttigieg told CNBC: “We really need to see more staffing on the airline side, we’re especially looking at pilots and mechanics. Even in our own organization at the FAA, we’re working to get more air traffic controllers prepared and qualified.”
He continued: “It’s going to be very important for that hiring to continue, that staffing to continue to create some cushion in the system, especially when you go into days like this where there’s weather. Nobody can control the weather, but you can control how resilient the system is as you’re dealing with it.”
Buttigieg also suggested that travelers stay on top of the forecast and warnings and to try to change their flight tickets to before or after the storm when possible. He also recommended against driving during the upcoming brutal conditions, saying that those who do end up driving should do so with plenty of time and “make sure that your car is set up for winter driving.”
Additionally, Amtrak has also issued a severe weather warning and even cancelled many trains all around the country.