Snow Grounds Nearly 1,800 Flights Nationwide

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Airlines grounded nearly 1,800 flights nationwide and began waiving change fees as a snow storm wreaked havoc on flights schedules Sunday.

The worst overall problems were at Chicago O’Hare, where more than 1,200 flights had been canceled as of 7:50 p.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. The cancellations represented more than half of the airport’s entire daily schedule. Flights that were still operating were faced delays as long as 4-½ hours earlier Sunday, though they had moderated by afternoon, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s flight-delay map.

Nationwide, about 2,370 flights had been delayed by 7:50 p.m. ET, according to FlightAware.

Chicago O’Hare is a hub for both United and American airlines, meaning disruptions could ripple out to other airports as planes and crews get knocked off schedule by the weather problems there.

Chicago’s Midway Airport also was seeing weather-related problems. More than 170 flights – or about a third of the day’s schedule – had been canceled there as of noon ET, according to FlightAware. Southwest is by far the busiest carrier at Midway.

In Detroit, no one was injured when an arriving Delta Air Lines MD-80 jet slid into the grass just before noon ET there. The FAA ground stop issued for Detroit after the incident, listing snow, ice and “braking action” as causes. Both delays and cancellations spike in Detroit during the afternoon, but it was unclear if that was fallout from the Delta incident or it was because of deteriorating weather conditions. As of 7:50 p.m. ET, more than 220 flights — about 20% of the day’s schedule — had been canceled and another 440 delayed, FlightAware counted.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Ben Mutzabaugh