Winter's wrath costs travelers

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Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 12:00 am

Bloomberg News

Severe winter weather cost U.S. airline passengers $5.3 billion in expenses and missed workdays as carriers canceled and delayed trips in the worst period of flight disruption since Sept. 11.

The cost to airlines may be as much as $500 million because of increased operating expenses and lost revenue, according to industry data tracker MasFlight. Flight cancellations from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 totaled 108,600, almost double the average of previous winters of 57,600.

Snow and ice storms have pummeled a broad swath of the country this winter, disrupting travel plans for more than 90 million people. Travelers were sometimes left stranded in cities for days, paying out of their pocket for hotels and meals and lost productivity.

“This will be remembered as one of the worst winter storm periods in aviation history,” said Tulinda Larsen, vice president of Bethesda, Md.-based MasFlight.

And it's not over. Yet another storm is swooping through the mid-Atlantic this week.

The storm is the latest in a season that has set many records and shows little sign of ending soon. January racked up more than 49,000 cancellations, as many as the past three Januaries combined, MasFlight said previously. Feb. 13 was the worst day of winter with 7,561 cancellations, topping the 7,400 on Oct. 29, 2012, that resulted from Hurricane Sandy.

The harsh weather in the East and Midwest created a ripple effect that affected airports even in California.

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