U.S. airlines restore flights as cold snap eases

Reuters

Jan 8 (Reuters) - U.S. airlines on Wednesday made progress in getting operations back to normal after several days of storms and record cold weather forced cancellations of thousands of flights.

Airlines had canceled more than 1,000 flights on Wednesday, according to FlightAware.com data, down from 2,700 on Tuesday. Since Jan. 1, carriers have canceled more than 19,300 flights, FlightAware showed.

Among major U.S. carriers, Delta Air Lines had canceled four flights and Southwest Airlines had halted 37 as of early Wednesday, the data showed.

"The regional carriers are still the last to catch up today," said Daniel Baker, chief executive of FlightAware.com. "I think things will be back to normal late today and by tomorrow."

Record cold temperatures in the United States in recent days had hobbled airline operations, disabling equipment used to fuel planes.

JetBlue Airways, which resumed flights to four New York area and Boston airports on Tuesday after suspending operations in those locations Monday evening to reposition crew and planes, showed 13 cancellations early on the day Wednesday.

"It's looking really good today," JetBlue spokesman Anders Lindstrom said in an email. "Operations are back to being close to fully 100 percent operable."

American Airlines had canceled just 50 flights early Wednesday, most of them with its American Eagle regional unit, spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said.

"The cold temperatures at many outstations are still making things challenging for Eagle," Huguely added in an email.

Helane Becker, an airline analyst with Cowen & Co, estimated the recent weather events would hurt industry earnings by $50 million to $100 million in the first quarter.

Shares of airlines were mixed. JetBlue was up 0.3 percent to $8.71 in morning trading, and Delta rose 1.7 percent to $29.28. Southwest Airlines and United Continental were also higher, while American Airlines was off 0.1 percent at $26.88.

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