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With another storm, airlines take no chances

By SAMANTHA BOMKAMP Published: November 8, 2012
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American Airlines shut down in New York at 3 p.m. It stopped flights to and from Philadelphia at noon.

Most other airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., are asking passengers to reschedule Northeast flights to a later date. They're waiving the usual change fees of up to $150. But customers don't have a lot of time: Most waivers only allow passengers to reschedule within a week. That's in part because the busy Thanksgiving travel season is approaching, and airlines are eager to clear the traveler backlog.

JetBlue, which is the biggest domestic airline at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, said its operations had just gotten back to normal Monday after Sandy.

There's a dollars-and-cents reason that airlines cancel big swaths of their schedules well ahead of bad weather. Cancellations aren't as expensive for airlines as some might think.

Most passengers eventually reschedule, so the airline still collects the fare. And if flights are canceled, the airline doesn't have to pay the crew or the cost of burning fuel. Pilots and flight attendants only get paid once the main cabin doors close.

Many passengers on canceled flights are often squeezed onto another flight, which improves the airline's efficiency.

Airlines also are not required to pay for hotel rooms, food or other expenses for passengers stuck overnight due to the weather, as many stranded by Sandy learned to their dismay.

Surges from the current storm along the coasts of New Jersey and New York are expected to reach perhaps 3 feet, only a fraction of what Sandy caused. High winds, which may gust to 65 mph, could extend inland throughout the day, potentially hampering power restoration efforts or causing more outages.


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