Storm-driven flight cancellations disrupt travelers, package deliveries

Winter storm system blanketing U.S. hinders flights and shipping over holidays

Winter storms are causing flight cancellations in Atlanta and across the country, disrupting trips during the busy holiday travel period.

The U.S. airports with the most flight cancellations on Friday are Seattle-Tacoma, New York LaGuardia, Chicago O’Hare, Detroit, Chicago Midway and Boston, according to FlightAware.com. Though Atlanta dodged frozen precipitation, the winter weather elsewhere has caused some travel headaches here.

More than 130 flights to and from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have been canceled for Friday, according to FlightAware.com data.

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Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and its Delta Connection subsidiary Endeavor Air canceled more than 500 flights across the country Friday, including many at Delta’s Detroit hub, FlightAware data show.

At Hartsfield-Jackson, Delta defrosted aircraft in the early morning hours to prepare for the first departing flights.

Friday is one of the busier days of the year-end holiday period at Hartsfield-Jackson, with about 290,000 passengers expected to pass through the world’s busiest airport. Security lines were long during peak periods on Friday, with wait times nearing half an hour for some travelers during the morning rush and at midday.

Airport officials recommend travelers get to the terminal 2.5-3 hours before their flights.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are expected to be less crowded at the airport. Traffic will pick up again Monday and Tuesday as travelers return home from holiday trips.

Blizzards and winter weather are also disrupting another key holiday operation: package deliveries.

Sandy Springs-based UPS said weather is affecting its air hubs in Louisville, Kentucky, and in Rockford, Illinois.

“We will work to ensure the safety of our employees while minimizing effects on service,” UPS says on its website. “Contingency plans are in place to help ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as conditions permit.”

The storms threaten to cause significant delays just before Christmas, after package delivery companies performed relatively well earlier in the holiday shipping period. UPS had a 96.6% on-time delivery rate in late November, better than the U.S. Postal Service at 95.8% and FedEx at 95.3%, according to logistics data firm ShipMatrix.

Memphis-based FedEx also Friday warned customers that it has had “substantial disruptions” at its Memphis, Tennessee, and Indianapolis, Indiana, air hubs on Thursday night due to severe winter weather.

The weather disruptions could mean some gifts won’t arrive in time to be placed under the tree before Christmas morning.

“Potential delays are possible for package deliveries across the U.S. with a delivery commitment of Friday, December 23 and Saturday, December 24,” FedEx said. “FedEx is committed to provide service to the best of our ability.”