US airline passengers hit by more chaos after deadly snowstorm


US airline passengers are facing continued disruption following a deadly blizzard that swept across the country over the Christmas period, with thousands of flights still being cancelled on Tuesday.

According to the flight tracking site FlightAware, more than 3,000 US flights had been cancelled by Tuesday night, and over 6,000 had been delayed.

The majority of axed flights were operated by Southwest Airlines, which accounted for 64 per cent of Tuesday’s cancellations, according to FlightAware.

Southwest said it would operate just one-third of its flight schedule “for the next several days” due to “continuing challenges impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable”.

On Monday, the US Department of Transportation wrote on Twitter: “USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service.”

The travel chaos comes in the aftermath of a blizzard that left more than two dozen people dead and thousands without power.

States across the US were struck by the storm, with the hardest-hit area being New York’s Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city.

The blizzard, which meteorologists have described as a “bomb cyclone”, denoting a storm that intensifies rapidly, has caused temperatures across the US to plummet to as low as minus 40C over the Christmas period.

The National Weather Service had warned last week that more than 200mn people, or roughly 60 per cent of the US population, were under some form of winter weather warning or advisory.

Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said on Tuesday that the death count in the area had risen to 31.

“We’re recovering from the worst storm I’ve ever seen, certainly in terms of death from mother nature’s wrath,” he said.

A a number of the deaths were cardiac events related to snow shovelling and snow blowing. The storm was more deadly than New York’s blizzard of 1977, when 29 died.

New York governor Kathy Hochul called it an “epic, once-in-a-lifetime” weather disaster.

President Joe Biden late on Monday declared an emergency in New York, authorising the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security to co-ordinate relief efforts.

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