Fliers Lost $2.5B In Air Travel Expenses In January Thanks To The Polar Vortex, FAA Regulations

If you believe Punxsutawney Phil, then we’re in for a lot more winter. More winter weather means the possibility of more flight cancellations and delays on the horizon. And that’s not a comforting thought for consumers who already lost more than $2.5 billion in travel expenses in January.

Thanks to the polar vortex, along with new a Federal Aviation Administration regulation, nearly 49,000 flight cancellations and more than 300,000 flight delays occured last month, the Los Angeles Times reports.

MasFlight, an aviation operations technology company, estimates travelers lost $2.5 billion in hotel expenses, meals and lost productivity.

Consumers weren’t the only ones inconvenienced by cancellations and delays — MasFlight estimates airlines lost between $75 million and $150 million.

The hardest hit airline? JetBlue, where officials estimate the airline lost $30 million last month.

JetBlue canceled hundred of flights during the polar vortex in part because of a FAA new regulation imposing limits on the amount of time a pilot can be on duty without a rest.

Officials with the airline said the new regulation and disrupted flight schedule led pilots to ‘time out’ sooner causing additional cancellations.

Airlines that canceled flights were also likely playing it safe with another rule that went into effect in 2010, the LAT notes. That regulation imposes a fine up to $27,500 per passenger for airlines that keep travelers stranded on domestic flights for more than three hours. Airlines face the same penalty for keeping passengers on international plans for more than four hours.

It’s not all bad news for the airlines. By being proactive in canceling flights they are able to reduce staffing and other costs. Airlines could make some of their losses back if travelers rebook canceled flights.

‘Polar vortex’ wallops fliers’ wallets [The Los Angeles Times]

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