Airlines cancel 4,400 U.S. flights Friday as winter storm snarls travel

By David Shepardson

Flying drone with camera

WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (Reuters)Airlines canceled over 4,400 U.S. flights on Friday as a massive winter storm snarled airport operations around the United States and frustrated thousands of holiday travelers.

The cancellations followed nearly 2,700 canceled flights on Thursday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Passenger railroad Amtrak has canceled dozens of trains through Christmas, disrupting holiday travel for thousands.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed ground stops or delays for de-icing at a number of U.S. airports because of winter weather. It said “severe winter weather moving across the Great Lakes into the Northeast will have a major impact” on flights, adding that “flight delays are likely from Boston to D.C. Metropolitan area airports, Seattle-Tacoma and Portland International Airports and Aspen” in Colorado.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN the U.S. aviation system “is operating under enormous strain” and two different storms and high winds are affecting airports around the country. About 10% of U.S. flights were canceled on Thursday, Buttigieg said.

“You are going to see a lot of disruption,” he said.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had 44% of departing flights canceled as of 11 a.m. PST (1400 GMT). The FAA early on Friday issued a ground stop there due to snow and ice.

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More than 40% of departing flights at Detroit Metro were canceled, 60% at Portland, 34% at New York’s LaGuardia, 27% at Boston and 21% at Chicago O’Hare, which noted that wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour (64 to 80 km per hour) are expected in Chicago on Friday.

Another 5,500 U.S. flights were delayed on Friday – including more than a fifth of those operated by American Airlines AAL.O, United Airlines UAL.O, Delta Air Lines DAL.N and Southwest Airlines LUV.N.

Southwest canceled 889 flights Friday, more than one-fifth of all its scheduled flights, while Alaska Airlines ALK.N canceled 359, or 46%, of its flights.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Josie Kao and Jonathan Oatis)

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