240 flights cancelled at O'Hare and Midway in advance of Northeast blizzard

February 8, 2013 3:02:59 PM PST
Thousands of flights are canceled ahead of a storm, stranding passengers at airports across the nation, including in Chicago.

More than 210 flights were cancelled Friday at O'Hare Airport and more than 30 flights were cancelled at Midway.

The debate team from Chicagoland Jewish High School in Deerfield is hoping they will get out of O'Hare on a flight to New York without a fight.

"I'm worried that we're not going to get there and we have to be there in New York by certain time and if we don't get there were probably going to have to wait it out till Saturday," said Alana Spellman.

Eric Gutowski was relieved as he looked at the departure board. He is getting on one of the last flights to Boston on American Airlines.

"I hope we get a landing slot," he said. "It looks like the flight is scheduled to still take off as long as we get a landing slot in Boston and we land at 9:30 I'm a happy camper."

Thousands of flights have been canceled here and around the country as the east coast prepares for a nasty snow storm. The ripple effect is being felt in Chicago. Travelers have been scrambling to rebook.

"After waiting on the phone for about 40 minutes they changed my flight for free to a much earlier flight, which meant getting up at about 3:30 but I'm might make it out there, I think," said Boston-bound Jessica Rhoades.

Those headed east know that if they make it, they will be arriving to a wintery mess. Blizzard warnings are in effect from New Jersey to southern Maine. The day is expected to begin with light snow and get heavier by the afternoon.

"Well I'll get there a little beforehand, but at least I can take care of things around my house clearing the driveway getting the generator going if we lose power that sort of thing," Gutowski said.

In all, airlines have canceled 3,400 flights across the nation on Friday and Saturday in advance of the storm. Many of those airlines hope that they can resume service sometime on Saturday.

American Airlines has proactively cancelled from than 475 flights for Friday and Saturday, mostly to the east coast because of weather. United Airlines has cancelled more than 900 flights, as well.

Airlines issued so-called "weather waivers," allowing passengers flying in the storm-affected areas to change their flight date without paying a change fee.

In recent years airlines have tried to get ahead of big storms by canceling flights in advance rather than crossing their fingers that they could operate in bad weather. Travelers can still face dayslong delays in getting home, but the advanced cancellations generally mean they get more notice and can wait out the storm at home or a hotel, rather than on a cot at the airport.

In addition reservation systems have been programmed to automatically rebook passengers when flights are canceled. And travelers now receive notifications by email, phone or text message.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.