Holiday Travel Update: Airlines Brace for Winter Storm with Waivers

Airliner on runway in blizzard.
Alexey_Lesik / Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s the Christmas surprise many didn’t see coming: A holiday winter storm across the Midwest that could dump several inches of snow, produce blizzard-level winds and impact travel just ahead of Christmas. According to AAA, more than 113 million Americans are expected to travel home for the holidays, with a winter storm only making things more treacherous at airports across the country.

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As advised by meteorologists, “T​ravel should be avoided in many of these areas since it could become difficult or impossible.” That prediction has many major airlines jumping into action for one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The four major airlines spoke to Fox Business News with updates on how they are handling the storm — here’s what you can expect if you have current fares:

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American Airlines: Travelers in the Midwest and Northeast are able to get waivers from this airline. For Midwest customers, anyone is eligible who booked tickets by December 19 with travel between December 21-23; in the Northeast, passengers must have booked by December 19 for travel between December 22-24. Any changes to travel have to be rebooked by December 23 for Midwest customers and December 24 for Northeast customers, says Fox Business News. 

Delta Airlines: Representatives warn to expect flight cancellations and are currently issuing waivers for scheduled travel in several affected areas as follows: Pacific Northwest for travel between December 22-24; Northwest Mountain area for travel between December 20-23; and Atlantic and Northeast for travel between December 22-24. The airline is also waiving rebooking fees for any travel that is rescheduled on or before December 25 for the Pacific Northwest and for travel on or before December 26 for the Northwest Mountain area as well as on or before December 27 for the Atlantic and Northeast.

Southwest Airlines: The major air carrier now has waivers available for those with travel planned in the Northeast, Rocky Mountain and Midwest areas. Northeast travelers who were supposed to travel between December 22-24 are eligible, in the Rocky Mountains and Midwest, travel between December 21-23 is applicable. Per Fox Business News, “Travel must also take place within two weeks of the original travel date. “

United Airlines: Fox Business News reports that the airline has already gone ahead and sent waivers to customers with scheduled itineraries that will travel to the Midwest, Northwest, Texas as well as Central and East Coast areas of the country. The waivers are available for anyone that purchased their airfare by December 18 (in the Midwest, by December 17). Anyone in Texas or the East Coast will have change fees waived for travel on or before December 28; in the Midwest, that deadline extended to December 30.

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For all of the airlines, to redeem the waivers, it’s mandated that “tickets must also be booked in the same cabin and between the same cities previously booked,” says the article.

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Of course, the winter weather is not only affecting millions of people trying to travel this holiday week to spend time with loved ones, but it may also affect any packages you mailed as many of those fly the friendly skies too. 

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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