Thousands of flights canceled as storm descends on the East

Airline travelers are going nowhere fast because of the blizzard bearing down on the Northeast on Monday, and Tuesday doesn’t look much better.

At midday, more than 2,600 Monday flights within the U.S. had already been scrubbed, according to tracking service FlightAware.com. Most were to or from a band running from Washington through New York to Boston.

And more than 1,000 flights are delayed.

For Tuesday, 3,200 flights have already been canceled, FlightAware says.

United Airlines says it won’t fly Tuesday in New York, Boston or Philadelphia.

United spokeswoman Mary Ryan said the airline would limit operations at Newark, N.J., and LaGuardia and Kennedy airports in New York on Monday night and cancel all Tuesday flights at those airports.

Callers to the airline were also experiencing long times on hold because of the heavy volume.

American Airlines will run a “very limited” schedule in the Northeast on Tuesday, said spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. She said American planned to suspend operations late Monday afternoon at LaGuardia, Kennedy, Newark, Boston and Philadelphia.

Airlines cancel flights before storms arrive to prevent passengers from driving to the airport and getting stranded in the terminal. Airlines also want to avoid having their planes stuck at snowed-in airports.

Most major U.S. carriers said they would allow passengers ticketed to, from or through the Northeast on Monday or Tuesday to change their plans without getting hit by a fee, typically $200, for changing a reservation. Specific terms of the waiver varied by airline.

The blizzard in the Northeast was having ripple effects for travelers and airports across the country. In West Palm Beach, Florida, where temperatures were expected to be in the 70s Monday, about 30 percent of all flights were canceled. Fort Lauderdale and Orlando also reported many cancellations.

The National Weather Service predicted that 2 to 3 feet of snow would fall in a 250-mile stretch of the Northeast, including the New York and Boston areas. Philadelphia was bracing for 14 to 18 inches.

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