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Storm adds uncertainty to strong holiday travel demand

People line up to check in at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Concerns about disease and inflation haven’t stopped Americans from heading to the roads and airports this holiday season. However, large winter storms are possible.

Forecasters expect heavy snow, ice, flooding and strong winds to hit large parts of the country from Thursday through Saturday, from the Great Plains and Midwest to the East Coast. A surge of Arctic air follows. Christmas weekend may be the coldest in decades.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday that about 190 million people now have some kind of winter weather advisory because the storm is so large and widespread.

Southwest Airlines said it has canceled 500 of the 4,000 flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The company said it wants to maintain safe operations for both passengers and crew.

At least 145 flights to and from Denver International Airport were canceled on Wednesday after snow, gusty winds and freezing temperatures struck, according to flight tracking company FlightAware. was expected.

FlightAware also expected at least 364 flights to be canceled at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports on Thursday. Earlier this week, those two airports said he had 350 pieces of snow removal equipment and 400,000 gallons of pavement deicing fluid on hand for the storm.

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and other airlines have waived change fees and offered travelers the option of choosing a new flight to avoid severe weather. rice field.

Jean-Paul Blancq arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport a day early for Thursday’s flight back to New Orleans. Blank had to take a bus from his seasonal job in New Hampshire to Logan and had no idea where the storm was heading.

“I hope the flight is not canceled because I don’t know what to do,” Blanq said.

Atlanta consultant and lobbyist Bianca Thrasher Starobin flew to New York Wednesday morning for the event and was scheduled to fly out the same evening.

“I am trying to get out of this weather.

Bus and train travelers were also prepared for cancellations and delays.

As of late Wednesday, Amtrak had canceled train service on about 30 routes, with some running through December 25. Greyhound canceled bus service on Wednesday and Thursday on 25 routes, including services from Las Vegas to Denver, Denver to St. Louis and Chicago to Minneapolis. , Memphis, Nashville.

The weather has added uncertainty to what was expected to be a busy travel season. Estimated to travel over 50 miles from home. This is a record for 2019, he is still short of 119 million, but up 4% from last year.

Most people plan to travel by car. About 6% travel by plane, according to AAA. In any case, many travelers find themselves changing their itineraries in a hurry.

Joel Luster was originally scheduled to drive from Bloomington, Indiana to McGregor, Iowa on Thursday. But he rescheduled his work and his wife canceled his appointment so he could leave on Wednesday to weather the storm.

In Montana, several ski resorts have announced closures on Wednesday and Thursday due to frigid temperatures and persistent winds. Others have scaled back their offerings. School is closed due to the cold weather.

Authorities across the country are concerned about possible power outages and are taking precautionary measures to protect the elderly, the homeless and livestock, and warning people to postpone travel if possible.

“We ask that you do not go out, especially if you do not have to drive on Fridays,” said Ron Blandige, Detroit’s public works director. Blandigi said 50 trucks are expected to salt the main road in 24-hour shifts when expected rain turns to snow on Friday.

Kelly Larkin arrived Wednesday from Florida for a vacation trip to New York. rice field.

“It worries me a little bit,” she said. “We have to play it by ear.”

Kurt Ebenhoch, a consumer travel advocate and former airline executive, said the fee waiver would give airline passengers valuable time to find another day and route before a storm. said. But consumers should read the fine print carefully. For example, airlines may charge a fare difference if a passenger books beyond a certain window.

Ebenhoch stressed that passengers have the right to ask airlines to book flights on another airline if there are no options to meet their needs. Also, if an airline cancels a flight, the consumer is entitled to a full refund as well as credit for future travel.

The urge to travel and visit family and friends while on vacation seems to outweigh concerns about illness. Coronavirus cases and deaths have increased in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the trio of COVID-19, seasonal flu, and the respiratory syncytial virus known as RSV have put health systems under stress. I keep giving.

Inflation also doesn’t seem to affect holiday travel demand. According to US government data, the average round-trip airfare in the second quarter of this year (latest period available) rose 22% to $397. This outpaced overall US inflation, which he peaked at 9% in June.

Travel and hospitality analyst Lindsay Loeschk at market research firm Morning Consult said travelers appear to be saving money in other ways.

A recent Morning Consult survey found that 28% of U.S. travelers plan a day trip during the holiday season, up from 14% last year. There has also been an increase in people planning to stay with friends and family instead of hotels. Roeschke believes higher prices are a factor.

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Associated Press photographer Julie Nikinson of New York, Steve LeBlanc of Boston, Corey Williams of Detroit, Julie Walker of New York, Amy Hanson of Helena, Montana, and Associated Press reporter Amankai Villaben of Los Angeles. contributed.


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