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East Coast Blizzard May Cost Airlines $150 Million

Callie Schweitzer |
December 30, 2010 | 7:24 p.m. PST


The snow storm that hit the East Coast Sunday and Monday may have dealt the biggest blow to the airline industry.

"The blizzard in the Northeast that left thousands of passengers stranded and temporarily shut down the busiest air market in the U.S. this week could cost the airline industry up to $150 million, some analysts predict," according to USA Today.

Perhaps the biggest invoncenience of the two-day snow storm, which is being called the "worst in four years," was the airport closings that left thousands of holiday travelers stranded.

The three major airports in New York canceled all flights Sunday night and are now working to fit in travelers by the end of the week.

The Federal Aviation Administration has said at least 6,000 flights were canceled, most of which were in and out of New York-area airports.

People stranded in New York airports slept on luggage carousels and cots Sunday night, while others slept on the floor.

Rail and bus service on the East Coast was also hit hard, and many holiday travelers spent their days after Christmas on train platforms or hubs.

USA Today reports:

After a bleak two-year period in which fewer people were traveling because of the economic downturn, planes have been up to 86% full on average some months this year, according to Transportation Department figures. And some airlines said many flights this Christmas and New Year's holiday season didn't have a single empty seat as passengers returned to the air.

Experts say that whatever the final cost of this week's storm, airlines could have lost much more.

Many holiday travelers are flying on cheaper, non-refundable tickets. So it's passengers — not the airlines — who lose money if they decide not to fly.

Airlines don't have to pay to house or feed domestic passengers because of cancellations caused by weather. The period of time in which airlines are waiving fees for passengers who change their itineraries is short. And Harrell says that many passengers will be rebooked into seats that had gone unsold, which also won't cost the airlines more.



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