Delta preparing for winter storm impact on flights across the country

Arctic blast hits nation ahead of busy holiday travel season

Winter storms are causing Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and other carriers to cancel some of their flights around the country, just as travelers set off for trips to visit family for the holidays.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport expects heavy volumes of passenger traffic Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Crowds at the airport are expected to be lighter on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

ExploreHoliday travel guide to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport

Airport officials have been holding conference calls with airlines and other businesses at the airport to prepare for winter weather. Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency that extends through Monday.

“We’re monitoring the forecast,” said Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Andrew Gobeil on Thursday. “Should there be precipitation, we have ensured that we have enough deicing equipment and material on hand.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

In anticipation of possible rain and icy conditions overnight Thursday into Friday morning, some Delta employees will stay in hotels near Hartsfield-Jackson overnight Thursday to prepare to handle flights and customers early Friday morning, said Joe Miller, Delta’s vice president of airport customer service in Atlanta. The airline gives employees working during the cold snap frequent breaks and “things like hot chocolate and soups,” Miller said,

Delta, the dominant carrier in Atlanta, is also bringing in more workers to defrost aircraft and handle other preparations. “We are staffed and ready,” Miller said.

Weather has been disrupting flights more severely in other parts of the country, and as a result many Delta aircraft have been parked in Atlanta, Miller said. Crews will be prepared to deice or defrost planes at their gates starting at 1:30 or 2 a.m. Friday to prepare for early-morning departures, Miller said.

Delta this week warned that winter weather is affecting operations at its hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and also causing flight cancellations in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, Northeast and Northwest Mountain region.

More than 70 flights have been canceled for Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, according to FlightAware.com, many of them flights to and from regions affected by winter storms. The cancellations make up about 3% of the total flights operating at the Atlanta airport. Some flights at Hartsfield-Jackson have already been canceled for Friday.

Those traveling through storms should check their flight status before heading to the airport.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Delta canceled more than 100 flights scheduled for Thursday across the country, after canceling 35 flights Wednesday, many of them at its Minneapolis hub, FlightAware data show. For Friday, the airline has canceled more than 70 flights.

When flights are canceled, Delta said it will attempt to automatically rebook customers on the next available flight, and will send updates to customers who have provided contact information to the airline at booking or online.

The airline is trying to cancel flights “as early as possible to avoid customers coming to the airport,” Miller said.

Delta also issued winter weather advisories to allow customers to rebook their flights on select days this week to another date without paying a higher fare, subject to certain restrictions.

The airline’s waivers posted on its website apply to certain dates this week for flights to, from or through a number of airports across the country. All told, the storm is affecting Delta flights in close to half of the states.

The airports affected span cities in New York, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Oregon and Washington.

“It’s been busy the last few days,” Miller said. “We’ve seen a fair number of folks decide to go early, when you have a storm of this size.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez