A "once-in-a-generation" winter storm is causing thousands of flight cancellations

Millions of Americans face disruptions to their holiday travel plans

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An extended wait for Christmas travelers in the US
An extended wait for Christmas travelers in the US
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Millions of Americans are facing travel disruptions in the days leading up to Christmas because of winter storm Elliott.

Over 2,400 flights within, into, or out of the US were cancelled yesterday (Dec. 22), according to tracker FlightAware. Denver International and Chicago O’Hare International canceled a quarter of the flights originating from the airports, the worst record in the country.

FlightAware data show another 2,400 have been cancelled today (Dec. 23), and at least 150 won’t take off on Saturday (Dec. 24), disrupting travel for people just ahead of Christmas Eve.


At Cleveland-Hopkins International, which has already cancelled 60% of flights for today, spokesperson John Goersmeyer reminds people, “It’s really important to pack your patience,” as they brace for delays and cancellations as the once-in-a-generation bomb cyclone hits.

The National Weather Service warned yesterday (Dec. 22) most of the US was to expect “dangerous” cold over the next few days as part of what it called a “once-in-a-generation storm.”


“The ongoing major winter storm will continue to produce areas of heavy snow, strong winds, and life-threatening wind chills through Saturday. If traveling for the holiday, please use extreme caution and pay attention to the latest forecasts and updates,” the agency wrote in a tweet.

Mapped: US winter storm warning as of Dec. 23

Much of America faces blizzard, hard freeze, gale, wind chill, and winter storm warnings
Much of America faces blizzard, hard freeze, gale, wind chill, and winter storm warnings
Screenshot: national weather service (Other)

Winter storm, by the digits

28.8 million: Passengers who were due to depart from US airports between Dec. 18 and Dec. 26


12: States where governors have enacted emergency measures and cold weather protocols as severe winter weather impacts much of the US.

87 million: Americans under wind chill alert

16,000: US flights delayed between Dec. 21 and Dec. 23

40 miles per hour: Wind gusts expected

5-10 minutes: The time a frostbite can form in on bare skin during the Arctic winter storm


20 feet: How far generators and fuel should be from doors, windows, and attached garages, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. They should be used outside but protected from rain and snow.

Airlines issue weather waivers

Most airlines, including American, Southwest, United, Delta, Spirit, JetBlue, Alaska and others, have issued flights waivers for dozens of destinations owing to the extreme weather, allowing travelers to change their departures without paying a change fee or difference in fare. The bigger ones like American and Southwest are making exceptions for over 50 airports.


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