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LOUSY SMARCH WEATHER...
By Joe Brancatelli
A great episode of The Simpsons showed Marge and Homer trudging through the snow to Town Hall to discuss Springfield calendars that mysteriously had 13 months. As he shakes off the cold and the snow, all Homer could mutter was: "Lousy Smarch weather!" And that's us. Just when we thought we'd survived the worst the winter could throw at us, we get hit with a lousy Smarch storm. It wound its way from the Plains early in the week to the East Coast several days later. Here is how we've covered things. Like a blog, a Pinter play or an episode of Seinfeld, read backward since the latest item is on top.
3/31/13, 6PM ET, SUNDAY
OUT LIKE A LAMB...
According to FlightStats.com, 90.38 percent of the nation's flights operated on-time on Friday, March 29. That's 90 percent for the entire system nationwide of more than 24,000 flights. With slightly fewer flights on Saturday (March 30), the system also managed a 90 percent rating for the day.
That's, um, er, well, amazing. Sure, schedules are padded and things still mostly stink. But when the entire nation and all of its carriers manage to operate at 90 percent on-time, even for two days, I do think it's worth noting. (And, if you'll allow the reference, it really was a good Friday out there...)
According to FlightStats, only 90 flights were cancelled Friday, or just 0.037 percent of the scheduled flights. That, too, is rather remarkable.
Given how awful March travel conditions have been, I think this is astonishing. After all, last weekend only 65 percent of flights were on schedule. And the weather in parts of Northern Europe continues to be poor. Last night I watched some Berliners jump into the near-freezing Wannsee because it was the official annual opening of Berlin's lakes. No matter that it was snowing and the beach was snow-covered and they had to shovel off the dock to allow the folks to jump into the lake...
3/25/13, 7:45PM ET, MONDAY
IT'S FEBRUARY 55th OUT THERE
Besides the storms that have been playing havoc with air travel here in the United States the last few days, another gigantic snowfall hit Moscow this morning. "It is more like February 55 than March 25," one sharp-tongued Muscovite told Deutsche Welle TV today.
I've been using "lousy Smarch Weather" to describe our awful run of travel luck lately, but I'm down with the February 55th quip. It pretty much covers it.
Last Saturday, March 23, was actually the worst day of the year for travel. Only 65 percent of flights nationwide operated on-time, according to FlightStats.com. The average delay was 68 minutes and some flights were delayed by nearly 15 hours. Worst-hit among the major carriers: AirTran Airways, at 46 percent, followed by American Airlines (50 percent) and Southwest (54 percent). Sunday (March 24) wasn't much better, with about 500 cancellations and more than 7,700 domestic delays.
While the storm that hit Denver, Kansas City and other Midwest cities over the weekend was mitigated by fact that many of us weren't on the road (and were planted by the TV watching March Madness), today is something different. So far today, FlightStats.com is reporting that there are already 775 cancellations and 7,000 delays. Worst hit: Philadelphia, Chicago/O'Hare and the three major New York area airports. Things have also tough at Atlanta/Hartsfield and the three Washington-area airports. Charlotte has been no picnic, either.
In other words, just your run-of-the-mill February 55th.
3/13/13, 10:45PM ET, WEDNESDAY
AND EUROPE THOUGHT THE EURO CRISIS WAS BAD...
A freak March snowstorm whacked parts of Europe this week and played havoc with hubs from Heathrow to Frankfurt. And not just planes, but trains, too.
The storm late on Monday (March 11) and Tuesday morning (March 12) dumped about eight inches of snow, surprised airports, airlines and train operators and was brutal going for business travelers. Brussels' two main train stations were closed. Frankfurt Airport was closed for part of Tuesday. The Eurostar run between Paris/Gare du Nord and London/St. Pancras was cancelled. Huge chunks of the Thalys high-speed line that links Paris to Germany and the Low Countries were shut, too. Road travel in England was snarled by the snow.
For you weather wonks, Wednesday was set to be the first mid-March day since 1925 when daytime temperatures in Belgium didn't rise above freezing.
The damage, according to FlightStats.com, was almost 1,800 cancellations and 5,000 delays in Europe on Tuesday. Things improved a bit on Wednesday, when more than 650 flights were cancelled and 6,500 flights were delayed.
3/11/13, 10AM ET, MONDAY
WORST. WEEK. EVER. TO. FLY.
The meandering and slow-to-die snow/rain/sleet storm that hobbled flights from Denver and the Plains States to the Northeast and the MidAtlantic last week was brutal on travelers. According to FlightStats.com, the flying week of March 3 (Sunday) to March 9 (Saturday) was plagued with a total of 7,600 cancellations and about 38,000 delays.
Worst hit last week? Chicago/O'Hare, which suffered a total of nearly 1,600 departure and arrival cancellations and 3,500 delays. New York/LaGuardia suffered more than 900 cancels. Washington/National and Washington/Dulles each had a total of more than 800 cancellations. There were 700 in Denver and between 600 and 650 each in Newark, Philadelphia and Boston.
3/8/13, 11:55PM ET, FRIDAY
THE WORD YOU'RE LOOKING FOR: AWFUL
The storm hit the Northeast late--but much harder than expected--today. Parts of New England reported as much as a foot of snow. The result? A very bad day to fly nationwide thanks to the heavy delays and cancellations radiating from New York, Boston and Philadelphia airports. For the day, FlightStats.com reports that only about 70 percent of the nation's flights ran on-time. About 2,000 flights ran between 15 and 29 minutes behind schedule. At least 1,000 were "very late" or 30-44 minutes late. And an awful 3,700 more--16 percent of the nation's schedule--ran more than 44 minutes late.
3/7/13, 8:45PM ET, THURSDAY
WAITING FOR THE STORM--AND YOUR FLIGHT
Airlines decided to play chicken with the storm in the Northeast today. They won--and we lost. There have been a relatively modest 765 cancellations today, but delays skyrocketed. There already have been more than 4,500 nationwide. Worst hit? Newark, New York/LaGuardia, Boston/Logan and all of the airports around Cape Cod. Chicago/O'Hare, Philadelphia and New York/Kennedy were also hit with heavy delays. And with snow, sleet and freezing rain moving into the region now, tomorrow morning may also be tough.
3/6/13, 11:45PM ET, WEDNESDAY
NOT SO MUCH SNOW, BUT FLIGHTS WERE LONG GONE
The so-called Snowquester may have fizzled generally in the MidAtlantic, but the airports and business travelers in the region weren't spared. Although snowfall was minimal in most areas, airlines had pulled the trigger hours before the storm started and there was no going back. Nationwide, FlightStats.com says there were 2,459 cancellations and around 6,000 delays. Worst hit were Washington/Dulles with more than 600 scrubbed take-offs and landings; Washington/National (ditto); and Philadelphia (about 325 cancels and 650 delays). Baltimore/Washington and the big New York area airports were messy, too. Charlotte, where US Airways didn't offer a travel waiver, had a tough day. There were about 100 cancellations and about 250 delays.
3/5/13, 6:15PM ET, TUESDAY
HOW'S MARCH TREATING YOU SO FAR?
So how's March treating you so far? If you're traveling anywhere from the Plains States to the East Coast, the answer is not so good.
As I warned yesterday, today has been terrible, especially in the Midwest. FlightStats.com is reporting more than 1,600 cancellations and 3,200 delays nationwide. Hardest hit: Chicago. About 540 arrivals at O'Hare and 120 at Midway were cancelled. There were more than 200 combined arrival delays at the two airports. There were heavier-than-normal delays and cancellations at Minneapolis/St. Paul, too.
With the storm expected to hit the East tomorrow into Thursday morning, airlines are already bailing on the snow-skittish Washington Metro area. There have been heavier-than-normal delays and cancellations today at National, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington. And the carriers have already dumped huge chunks of tomorrow's schedule. About 300 departures tomorrow at the three airports have been dumped as of 6 p.m.
The storm is a long one, expected to hit from Virginia up to Portland, Maine. The airlines have put out travel waivers and they are, as is the new standard, convoluted and extremely narrow. Here are your options.
US Airways: http://www.usairways.com/TravelCenter/Advisories.aspx
Virgin America: http://www.virginamerica.com/news.do?int=news_alertbart_travelAdvisory
Bottom line? It's icky out there. If you don't need to travel the rest of the week, maybe you should consider sitting it out. You can see county-by-county weather warnings, alerts, conditions and forecasts at the official government weather site: http://www.weather.gov/
3/4/13, 5:45PM ET, MONDAY
DON'T KNOW WHY THERE'S NO SUN UP IN THE SKY
Lena Horne's Stormy Weather anyone? There's a big late-winter storm that is guaranteed to cause annoyance, cancellations and delays at some major hubs this week.
The storm is likely to whack the Minnesota/Wisconsin area hard tonight and early tomorrow. That means trouble for Delta's Minneapolis/St. Paul hub. It snowed some this morning and FlightStats.com is reporting that more than a hundred take-offs and landings have been cancelled so far at MSP and there have been at least 175 delays. Chicago/O'Hare is also having a less than optimal day.
Tomorrow could also be a lousy day for Chicago as the storm moves into the Windy (and Snowy) City. Check the Chicago weather situation at http://chicagoweather.com/
Wednesday and Thursday could then be awful in the Mid-Atlantic states, with up to a foot of snow in some parts of Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. That means bad news for Washington/DCA, Washington/IAD and Baltimore-Washington International. You know how well the Washington area handles snow. And because this storm seems to be a weirdly shaped one, the Detroit and Cleveland hubs could also be affected on Wednesday. You can see more on all of this at the Weather Channel, which has a proprietary naming system for winter storms and has dubbed this one Saturn.
So batten down all appropriate travel hatches and maybe give this extraordinary version of Stormy Weather a listen. It's from Lena Horne's miraculous 1981 one-woman show. This was the second time in the show she sang Stormy Weather. It got a standing ovation all seven times I saw it at the Nederlander Theater in New York and the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles ...
And, no, I don't know why there's no sun up in the sky, either.
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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 © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.