The numerous storms this winter are not only the cause for miserably cold, snowy, and icy conditions across much of the country, but is now to blame for the U.S. airlines cancelling more flights over the winter months than in the 25 year history of keeping track, according to analysis completed by the Associated Press. U.S. airlines have cancelled more than 75,000 domestic flights since December 1, including the roughly 14,000 this week. That's 5.5 percent of flights scheduled during that time period according to data logged by FlightAware.
Thursday, more than 6,500 flights were cancelled in what is being called the worst air travel day on record for the country with more than 60% of flights cancelled in DC, Baltimore, Charlotte, NYC, Philadelphia, and Raleigh seen in the graph below from Flightaware.com. This just one day after nearly 80% of flights were cancelled in Atlanta, home of the world's busiest airport.
But let's be honest, it was a good idea to cancel this many flights with the strong storm heading up the east coast and dumping an inch of ice, rain, and up to 22" of snow from Alabama and Georgia to the Canadian border… all in 36 hours time. Check out the snowfall totals from the map below.
Weather isn't entirely to blame for the mess with tougher government regulations; airlines have no other option in cases like this. Stricter guidelines prevent pilots from being overworked and taxi wait times of no more than 3 hours. Not to mention, with airlines cutting hundreds of their least traveled domestic flights over the last 5 years to become more profitable, it leaves little option available for passengers other than to just suck it up and wait.
Despite the inconvenience, I think most of us would rather have our flight cancelled early allowing us to spend the extra time outside of the airport while waiting for things to reopen, versus the old way. This involved going to the airport, having our flight delayed 6 times, then eventually getting cancelled, and then sitting at the airport for 36 hours taking numerous naps on the hard floor while eating vending machine food waiting for things to reopen.