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Arctic blast threatens ops at US airports

An Arctic blast southward that began yesterday caused a drop in temperatures and snow storms across the U.S. resulting in flight delays and cancellations at several major airports, including Chicago O’Hare (ORD), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Charlotte (CLT), Detroit (DTW), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Atlanta (ATL), Denver (DEN) and Minneapolis−Saint Paul (MSP).  

Today, over 2,900 flights into, out of, or within the U.S. have been delayed and 774 cancelled, according to data from FlightAware. Of this total, Midwest hub ORD has suffered most, seeing delays and cancellations of around 200 and 70 arriving flights, as well as 230 and 13 departure flights, respectively. The problems began yesterday, when more than 1,200 flights scheduled to depart from and arrive at ORD were cancelled. 

On Twitter, ORD posted that some flights arriving at the airport were delayed by over six hours on average earlier today. Delays to flights have vastly improved, though some destinations, such as Newark (EWR) and La Guardia (LGA), are still experiencing delays around an hour. 

Air Cargo World reached out to several carriers and freight forwarders, such as DHL Express, Swissport, American Airlines Cargo, Southwest Cargo and Delta Cargo, for details on how their cargo operations at these airports have been affected. 

Operations out of American Airlines’ cargo facility at ORD have continued through the storm, despite cancellations of more than 300 flights yesterday, the carrier told Air Cargo World. Today, it has so far seen only nine total cancellations and 126 delayed flights. Its cargo facilities in all impacted areas remain operational. However, of its operations, live animal shipments and other sensitive commodities transiting from, to and through airports with temperatures forecasted outside of acceptable ranges have been impacted by the storm. The carrier said it is notifying customers of re-accommodation opportunities to minimize potential transit delays. American Airlines said it does not currently plan to implement any embargoes. 

Meanwhile, DHL Express said that its operations at ORD and other U.S. airports have not been affected due to weather, and that none of its flights have been delayed or cancelled at this time. The express integrator did share it has contingency plans in place to ensure continued service should its operations become affected due to weather. 

Southwest Airlines reported that its operations at Chicago’s neighboring regional airport, Midway (MDW), are not seeing any major impacts due to weather conditions, thus far. 

Other stakeholders in the region have yet to reply. 

Stay tuned for updates from Air Cargo World as the situations evolve. 

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Chelsea Toczauer

Chelsea Toczauer is the Associate Editor of the company’s daily news and monthly magazine Air Cargo World. She holds two BAs in International Relations and Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Southern California, as well as a double accredited US-Chinese MA in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University joint degree program. Chelsea speaks Mandarin and Russian.