Bah Humbug: Airlines cancel over 10,000 flights amid worst of storm

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Amid the worst Christmas weekend storm in US history, flight cancellations have topped 10,000 and it’s not over yet.

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Historic Storm

It’s more than just bad weather, winter storms sweeping across much of the United States have resulted in significant flight delays and cancellations across the country. Temperatures in Minnesota reached as low as -35°F and while extremely cold, may not be unique for this time of year. However, almost the entire country is blanketed in frigid weather, sticky conditions, snow and wind.

Meteorologists have said Winter Storm Elliot is the worst to ever hit the United States over a Christmas weekend. The storm’s breadth and reach, not only known for its snowfall and cold weather, was a big part of the problem. Some have died and a million are without power.

Airlines cancel over 10,000 flights

West Palm Beach, Florida dropped to 36 degrees, Harlingen, Texas to 30 degrees, Dallas and Houston were both below freezing. Warmer cities, which have limited equipment and experience to deal with major winter snow events, struggle to get planes, but cities buried in the north also mean planes can’t reach other destinations, which is even in cities without bad weather leading to cancellations.

Flight cancellations Temperatures courtesy of

This weekend has been one of the worst for cancellations with more than 10,000 flights and counting not flying and the system backing up.

“Winds and blowing snow could cause delays in Chicago, and winds could cause delays in and around Washington, DC, New York, Boston and Philadelphia,” the FAA said Saturday morning. “Seattle, San Francisco and airports serving ski areas in Colorado may experience delays from low cloud and visibility conditions.” – CNBC

All of the above cities have a strong impact on American Airlines and United Airlines. JetBlue added that not only flights but also staff shortages are affecting the chaos:

“Winter Storm Elliott has resulted in thousands of weather-related delays and cancellations across the country,” according to a JetBlue employee memo provided to CNBC. “There has also been an increased absenteeism rate from crew members so we have a lot of voyages open for today.”

Speculation grew that Southwest was facing a rebellion in Denver, although the airline dismissed the notion.

Will you be home for Christmas?

With freezing conditions on the roads, power outages across the country and little chance of escape, some are wondering if they’ll even make it to their destinations this Christmas.

“Airlines and travelers have struggled to find alternative flights ahead of the holidays as planes were so full and flight schedules were severely curtailed over the weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration said flight schedules peaked Thursday at 47,554 flights, falling to 30,875 on Saturday and just 27,997 on Sunday, Christmas Day.

That could force airlines to issue cash refunds to travelers who decide to cancel their trip altogether because of the delays.” – CNBC

Saturday cancellations eased as the push toward Christmas morning on Sunday continues, fewer cancellations are welcome news but that doesn’t mean all those trapped are getting where they were headed when the mess started on Wednesday.

The airline’s backlog will likely extend into Sunday and could mean a Boxing Day celebration for some.


Extensive flight disruptions have made Christmas 2022 a struggle for airlines and travelers alike. With dangerous conditions across most of the country, airlines are unlikely to be able to fully recover before the holiday. The hope now lies in a safe journey whenever travelers arrive at their destination.

What do you think? Were you affected this weekend? Did you cancel your trip or did you continue your journey?

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