Airlines waived date-change fees for travelers scheduled to fly from more than two dozen northern U.S. airports as a rapidly moving winter storm is forecast to bring snow, ice, sleet and heavy winds from the Midwest to New England.
Flight cancellations were minimal on Friday as winter storm Harper dumped snow on the Midwest. Airlines canceled 116 flights for Saturday in and out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, less than 2 percent of the schedule, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.com.
American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines said travelers booked this weekend to or from airports in the Midwest and Northeast, including those serving New York and Boston, can change their tickets to fly as late as Jan. 23. Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge customers to change their travel dates but said travelers with tickets to cities that will likely be affected by the storm can fly up to two weeks later without paying a difference in fare.
Airlines urged travelers to check their airline’s website for travel information. Even if flights aren’t canceled in the storm, travelers can expect delays as airports de-ice planes.
The travel disruptions come amid an already higher-than-usual absence rate among Transportation Security Administration airport screeners, who have been without regular paychecks since the partial U.S. government shutdown began on Dec. 22.
The TSA said Thursday that the unpaid workers are not showing up because of financial strain. The staffing shortages have led to longer security lines at some of the country’s busiest airports, including in Atlanta, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Most security lines were within TSA standards, the agency said.
The TSA workers are among the some 420,000 government employees who have been deemed essential and have been ordered to work during the shutdown. That group also includes air traffic controllers.
Airports are bracing for an increase in travelers during the busy Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The TSA estimates it will screen 8 million travelers from Friday to Monday, an 11 percent increase compared with the holiday weekend in 2018.
Federal forecasters expect a blast of bitter cold to follow the storm, which could create additional bad road conditions and slow commutes.
Originally published at CNBC