By Peaches Anderson & Okon Ekpenyong
Winter Storm Elliot gave us a warning, but we did not expect it to have such an impact on thousands of flight cancellations. The top airlines in the nation, Southwest, United, American Airlines, and Delta, all experienced an operational meltdown due to the winter storm and scheduling issues.
“We’re sorry to let you know we’ve canceled flight UA736 from Columbus to Houston because of forecasted or severe weather conditions”, and that was the text message I received around 11:34 am on December 23, which was a direct flight. Guess what? I was not alone because thousands of other passengers traveling in/out of Columbus International airport and nearby also received flight cancellation notifications.
Columbus, which serves as the hub airport because it accommodates large banks of flight schedules to handle a high volume of connecting traffic, exacerbates daily peaking within an airline and competition between airlines adds to the congestion problem.
The term comes from the anatomy of wheels. Hubs are the center of wheels, from which spokes radiate outwards to reach the outer edges. The hub-and-spoke system allows airlines to serve more cities with fewer planes since they can funnel travelers into a few hubs rather than serve their full destinations with direct flights from every airport.
Hubs serve as transfer (or stop-over) points to help get passengers to their final destination. They also provide fuel for planes, and Airlines pay their monthly rent to have a hub at an airport.
International travelers also saw flight cancellations across the board. Forbes Magazine provided data showing which airlines and airports had the most cancellations within the past week.
* Southwest Airlines scheduled the most flights, which was 45,210 but canceled 14,461; that’s 29.77% of canceled flights.
* Delta scheduled 32,674 but canceled 1,350 flights.
* I flew with United, and out of the 27,091 scheduled flights, they canceled 827.
* With 36,481 scheduled flights, American Airlines has the lowest cancellation at 197, ranking higher than its top competitors.
* Columbus was not one of the ten listed airports with the most cancellations. The top three cities with the most cancellations were Denver, Harry Reid, and Chicago Midway, with 1044, 742, and 670, respectively.
* Southwest plans to return to normalcy by Friday of this week.
* United & American Airlines saw an increase in flight booking due to Southwest cancellations.
I had every intention of driving to the airport on Friday, but we were still in the middle of the snowstorm. Like the others, I spent countless hours trying to connect with the Airlines to rebook my flight, but the airlines said nothing was available on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. So, no way Jose was I going to get on that road.
Subsequently, I took United Airlines 6031 from Columbus to Houston to Washington on December 27; however, it was delayed because an earlier delay impacted the plane’s arrival. The board says departing at 3:15 pm on December 27, but we ended up leaving at 5:28 pm.
The flight successfully landed in Houston, and I thought that was the end; however, we did not get our luggage for almost two hours. All passengers went to C12 to claim their bags, and some did. While others, including myself, waited at the Carousel for more than an hour, but mystically our belongings were at C5.
I went to the George Bush International Airport to catch my return flight to Columbus a bit earlier, at 2 pm, to avoid long lines at the security checkpoints. Although my flight was in the evening, we had three delays and had to change flights, so our flight departed at 9:30 pm. The plane touched down at 1:15 in the morning.
Other passengers told me they were frustrated by flight cancellations and delays at the airport and on board. Some travelers had to book flights with United and other airlines after Southwest canceled more than 2500 flights nationwide.
A Southwest airline passenger who lives in Houston was traveling to Columbus to spend Christmas with his family, but his connecting flight in Dallas stalled. Instead of waiting, he took a five-hour bus trip back to Houston and rebooked with United Airlines.
“Whenever you are in the middle of a flight delay or cancellation, make sure you advocate for yourself by talking to airline representatives, knowing your rights as a customer, and using your checked luggage smartly,” Forbes Magazine said.
Lastly, always remember to protect your trip ahead of winter storms with travel insurance. To check the latest flight departing or arriving out of Columbus or flight status, please visit https://flycolumbus.com/flights. And https://flightaware.com/.
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