Make your home page

Thursday flight cancellations top 2,000 nationwide, disrupting holiday travel

(Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Snow, rain, ice, wind and frigid temperatures are disrupting air travel plans across the country.

Airlines canceled more than 2,000 US flights by 3 p.m. on Thursday, and proactively canceled more than 1,000 flights on Friday, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.

Delays were even more extensive: More than 5,300 on Thursday as of 3 p.m.

The impact is felt hardest in Chicago and Denver, where around a quarter of arrivals and departures — hundreds of flights at each airport — were canceled on Thursday, FlightAware data show.

At Chicago’s O’Hare, delays averaging 159 minutes — almost three hours — are being caused by snow and ice, according to a notice from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Temperatures at the airport are nearing freezing as the storm, and snow, is beginning to settle into the greater Chicago area.

The FAA said departing aircraft at Dallas Love, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver and Minneapolis airports require a spraying of de-icing fluid for safe travel.

In the busy New York area, the FAA warned that Newark flights should expect delays due to visibility issues.

The region’s three large airports are all warning travelers that the incoming winter weather front may disrupt their travels.

“Flight activity at #LaGuardiaAirport may be disrupted by heavy rain and strong winds later today and Friday. Travelers, please confirm flight status with your airline before heading to the airport,” LaGuardia Airport posted on Twitter. John F. Kennedy and Newark Airport also posted similar notices.

Many airlines have issued weather waivers allowing travelers to change their itineraries without penalty during a short window.

For those whose flights are still scheduled to fly, the Transportation Security Administration is recommending that passengers arrive at the airport earlier than usual.

Reagan National Airport’s TSA Federal Security Director John Busch told reporters that all airports “expect to be busier this holiday season than we’ve been in several years coming out of the pandemic. We’ve already seen some of our busiest days, yesterday and today and we expect maybe Friday 30th ahead of the New Year’s holiday can be also a very busy day.”

But Busch added that TSA is “very well prepared to handle additional volume and throughput for our security checkpoints.”

Travelers adjusting their plans

Maria Ihekwaba, who was traveling from Chicago to Clear Lake, Iowa, with her granddaughter on Thursday morning, told CNN she was trying to depart as soon as possible.

“Especially when you’re traveling from Chicago, you never know what could happen in Chicago because it’s the Windy City,” Ihekwaba said.

Traveler Kari Lucas, from San Diego, told CNN she was visiting her sister and brother-in-law, but cut the trip short as she didn’t want to get caught in the impending weather.

“I was worried because San Diego, we don’t get these snowstorms,” she said. “So I don’t like it to be trapped in the airport for long periods of time.”

“It seemed like the best choice to make right now,” she said.