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A LOUSY 60 DAYS OF WINTER
By Joe Brancatelli
Just when we thought it was safe to get back on the road after the chaos of the New Year's storm, we got whacked again with snow and extraordinarily cold weather. This storm was unique--in a bad way--since it clogged Chicago and blanketed East Coast hubs from Boston to Charlotte. In other words, a particular brand of hell for frequent travelers, part of a particularly lousy 60 days of bad weather dating back to just before last Thanksgiving. Here is how we covered things. Like a blog, a Pinter play or one particular episode of Seinfeld, read backward since the latest item is on top.
1/23/14, 2PM ET, THURSDAY
JANUARY STORMS COST UNITED $60 MILLION IN REVENUE
At its quarterly earnings call this morning, United Airlines said it cancelled 6,300 flights during the first seven days of January. Moreover, January's storms were expected to knock about half a percent off the airline's total capacity for the first quarter of the year. It will also cut United's first quarter PRASM (passenger revenue per available seat mile), the key measure of airline revenue, by about four-tenths of a percent. Overall, January's storm would cost United about $60 million in revenue, according to United chief financial officer John Rainey.
1/23/14, 9AM ET, THURSDAY
A VERY SLOW RECOVERY
The snow was mostly done, but Wednesday was no picnic on the road. FlightStats.com reports there were more than 1,900 cancellations representing nearly nine percent of the nation's flights. JetBlue Airways (30 percent of flights cancelled) was again hit exceptionally hard since the storm hung on in Boston, the airline's second-largest base of operations. Today is shaping up as a day of recovery, however, and cancellations should be around a third as many as yesterday. But we'll likely see a spike in delays as airlines push to get flights off the ground. Thankfully, this is among the slowest weeks for travel of the year.
1/22/14, 9AM ET, WEDNESDAY
YES, TUESDAY WAS OFFICIALLY AWFUL
Tuesday just basically sucked. According to FlightStats.com, the final numbers for the day were 3,200+ cancellations, representing about 15 percent of the nationwide system. Again, it was the regional carriers and their passengers that bore the brunt of the cancellations. But US Airways mainline and JetBlue Airways also ran poorly. Nearly 21 percent of US Air's flights were gone yesterday and JetBlue, heavily concentrated in New York and Boston, jettisoned more than a third of its schedule.
1/21/14, 11PM ET, TUESDAY
A HUB-SPANNING STORM MAKES US CRAZY
So the day went about as you expected with a hub-spanning winter storm reaching from Boston to Raleigh.
Airlines cancelled about 3,500 flights, primarily from New York to Charlotte, although there were plenty of cancellations in Chicago and late scrubs at Boston/Logan. The roads to/from the airports stink, too. And as always happens when the word "snow" is even mentioned, all of Metro Washington was basically closed today.
Tomorrow? The airlines have already dumped around 1,400 flights for Wednesday. If you're booked on the first flight out of the day, make sure your equipment is at the airport.
And it'll be cold from Minneapolis to the East Coast and into the deep South. Really cold. Polar Vortex cold. Plan accordingly.
The good news? This is one of the slowest travel periods of the year, meaning some slack in the system and relatively fast reaccommodations from the airlines. I even got a few compliments from members about how the carriers treated them today. It's a mid-winter miracle!
By the way, a moment of silent reflection for the folks who actually live in Chicagoland. With about 30 inches of snow so far this month, it's the fourth snowiest in the city's history. And I'm not sure the temperature has been above freezing since before the New Year. Personally, I am forever grateful that I no longer have to cover trade shows at McCormick Place in January.
1/20/14, 9PM ET, MONDAY
OLD MAN WINTER IS JUST 30 DAYS OLD
It's now 30 days into winter and guess what: Another storm is expected to barrel through the MidAtlantic and Northeast tomorrow and Wednesday.
If you check the National Weather Service site, (http://www.weather.gov) you'll see alerts from the Ohio Valley through New England. And here's the official language: http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/discussions/hpcdiscussions.php?disc=pmdspd
It's going to be very cold north and east of the Mississippi and there'll be snowfall of 6-12 inches depending on the area. This storm is apparently hugging the Coast.
According to FlightStats.com, the airlines have already cancelled more than 700 flights tomorrow. Expect many more, especially in the evening banks.
And the airlines are out with travel waivers:
AMERICAN is offering fee-free changes from Richmond to Boston http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/travelAlerts.jsp#!travelPolicy
DELTA is offering fee-free changes from Washington to Boston http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/alerts-and-advisories/east-coast-winter-weather.html
JETBLUE is offering fee-free changes from Raleigh-Durham to Boston and includes Pittsburgh and Chicago flights, too http://www.jetblue.com/JetblueAlerts/WeatherUpdate.aspx?intcmp=global_travelalert
UNITED is offering fee-free changes from Baltimore to New York and includes Chicago flights http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/news/Pages/travelnotices.aspx?v_ctrk=HHLN$0-772-5782-1-3907#ExceptionPolicies
US AIRWAYS is offering fee-free changes from Richmond to Halifax http://www.usairways.com/TravelCenter/Advisories.aspx
VIRGIN AMERICA is offering fee-free changes for flights from Philadelphia to Boston http://www.virginamerica.com/news.do?int=news_alertbart_travelAdvisory
1/10/14, 9PM ET, FRIDAY
HAPPY NEW BUSINESS-TRAVEL YEAR. NOT.
So how was your holiday? Quiet because you didn't have to be on the road until the new year? Well, surprise. Meet the new business-travel year, same as the old business-travel year: lots of snow, cancellations, delays and airline double-talk when it comes to their supposed travel waivers. If there was a saving grace about this storm, it's that it began on New Year's Eve and played out during the post-New Year's period when many fewer of us were planning to be flying again. Click here for the coverage.
12/05/13, 2:15PM ET, THURSDAY
AND IT WASN'T EVEN WINTER YET...
The official start of winter was still several weeks away and yet there we were, shivering, with our flights cancelled and delayed. A barrage of winter-like storms messed with the nation's air-transportation system since the week before Thanksgiving. Ice and snow hit the flight network hard, particularly in the Dallas Metroplex, where residents are always shocked--shocked!--that they get ice and snowstorms. A brutal winter system raked Northern Europe. Click here for the coverage.
11/24/13, 6PM ET, SUNDAY
BAD WEATHER AND BAD TRAVELERS AHEAD
A pre-Thanksgiving storm was expected to rake much of the nation and destroy travel patterns on some of the busiest days of the year. The busiest days of the year when the least experienced travelers were expected to clog the nation's airports, train stations and roads. Click here for the coverage.
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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.