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Major winter storm grounds thousands of US flights

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-02

Major airlines cancelled over 5,000 flights Wednesday due to a colossal winter storm stretching from New Mexico to Maine that hit the United States with snow, high winds and freezing rain.

REUTERS - Major U.S. airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights on Wednesday for a second straight day as a monster winter storm slammed large parts of the nation and paralyzed air travel to and from major cities.

The storm blasted the Northeast and the Midwest, where the blizzard was on track to dump the most snow in more than 40 years.

Flightaware.com, a website that tracks flights, estimated total U.S. cancellations of 5,280 as of early Wednesday.

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines all suspended operations at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, the second-busiest airport in the United States.

"We're totally out of Chicago today, 920 cancellations in and out," said American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith.

"Operations in New York (are) ramping up somewhat this afternoon," Smith said.

Atlanta-based Delta said its operations were canceled at both O'Hare and Midway airports in Chicago, and added it expects to return to normal operations in Chicago on Thursday.

The airline said it canceled more than 1,175 flights systemwide. American, a unit of AMR Corp, reported 1,587 cancellations for the day. US Airways Group canceled 531 flights for the day with its operations in Philadelphia, New York and Boston the hardest-hit.

A spokeswoman for United, which merged last year with Continental Airlines, did not have a total number cancellations, but the carrier scrapped almost 1,500 flights on Tuesday.

Southwest Airlines cited 850 cancellations on Wednesday tied to storms.

Airlines typically build winter weather delays and cancellations into their annual budgets, but large-scale disruptions can hit quarterly earnings.

For example, Delta said cancellations tied to severe winter weather cut its fourth-quarter earnings by $45 million, while United Continental cited a $10 million hit to its fourth-quarter profit from storms.

Shares of major airlines were lower on Wednesday as the broader market moved lower. Delta was down 2.9 percent at $11.45, United Continental was down 0.04 percent at $25.25, Southwest was down 1.8 percent at $11.64, and AMR fell 1.8 percent to $7.05. The Arca Airline index was down 2 percent.

Date created : 2011-02-02

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