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Severe winter costs air travelers $5.3 billion

Staff writer |
Severe winter weather cost U.S. airline passengers $5.3 billion in expenses and missed workdays. The cost to airlines may be as much as $500 million on increased operating expenses and lost revenue, according to industry data tracker MasFlight.

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Cancellations this season totaled 108,600, almost double the average of previous winters of 57,600. Snow and ice storms have pummeled a broad swath of the country this winter, disrupting travel plans for more than 90 million people who were sometimes left stranded in cities for days, paying out of their pocket for hotels and meals and lost productivity.

January racked up more than 49,000 cancellations, as many as the past three Januaries combined, MasFlight said previously. February 13 was the worst day of winter with 7,561 cancellations, topping the 7,400 on Oct. 29, 2012, that resulted from Hurricane Sandy.

The flight cancellation rate this winter of 5.5 percent exceeded the last severe winter period of 2010-2011 of 4.3 percent, MasFlight said. The total cost to passengers this winter compares with a typical winter average of $2.9 billion and an average over the two previous winters of $1.5 billion.

The storms affected the country's biggest airline hubs, including airports in Chicago, Atlanta, and the busiest airspace in the U.S., the New York-New Jersey region, resulting in about $4.5 million in costs for airports, MasFlight said.

United Continental Holdings Inc., American Airlines Group Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. topped the list of cancellation rates during the period, MasFlight said.

United, the world's second-largest airline, was the first airline to detail how the storms will affect its finances. It said last week that revenue for each seat flown a mile will decline this quarter because the winter storms caused more than 22,500 flights to be canceled.


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