Storms cause major flight disruption

A severe winter blizzard that
pounded the US mid-Atlantic
and northeast coasts Wednesday cancelled hundreds of flights and caused major
disruptions to those travelling to and from the Cayman Islands
for the second time in a week.

A blizzard last Saturday was
followed by one that started Tuesday and was still going on Wednesday.

The United States National Weather
Service issued a winter storm warning for the Washington, DC,
metro area, effective from noon on Tuesday to 7pm EST Wednesday night.

Flights in and out of Washington
Dulles were brought to a standstill again on Wednesday with a number of
carriers, including American Airlines, cancelling all services in the face of
another massive snowstorm.

Airports affected included Philadelphia International
Airport, JFK and others in Virginia, Maryland, New York and Washington,
DC. Tampa airport reported that 77 flights of 400
planned by 7am on Wednesday morning had been cancelled, nearly all originating
from or scheduled to fly to the areas affected by the severe winter weather.

Forecasters were projecting that
the new blizzard could bring between 10 and 20 inches of snow to the affected
areas.

Cayman travellers

Travellers intending to head to Washington, DC, last
weekend were left stranded in Grand Cayman
after the first blizzard.

By 1am Eastern Standard Time on Saturday,
a blizzard had deposited 10 inches of snow across much of the mid-Atlantic
region. Strong winds of up to 40mph caused storm conditions across the regions.

Insurance

Generally, weather conditions that
lead to cancellations are not considered to be the responsibility of airlines
and therefore passengers usually have to pay for their own accommodation or
alternative transport.

Those who had purchased independent
travel insurance may be able to get assistance with paying for hotels if they were
forced to stay overnight in this scenario, explained Tim Smith of American
Airlines.

“We would have operated as normally
had the weather not come down on us. If a cancellation was due to mechanical
error or an issue we caused, then passengers would be covered [by American
Airlines] but we’re yet to get the best of Mother Nature,” said Mr. Smith.

Delays in getting open flights come
when cancellations ‘stack up’ people awaiting a free seat, he explained.

“We and many other airlines did not
operate in Washington
for two days last weekend so there’s quite a backup.

Tickets purchased for travel on
American Airlines up to 14 February can be changed for no fee or penalty,
continued Smith.

“We have to not only to worry about
the airport, but also the infrastructure including roads leading to the
airport. Anybody travelling up until Sunday should call us and make arrangements,”
he concluded.

Warning

This week’s blizzard in the US was shaping
up to be worse than last weekend’s.

A blizzard warning issued by the
United States National Weather Service cautioned that severe weather conditions
were occurring. The advice for the Washington,
DC, region and surrounding areas
was unequivocal for people looking to travel in the area.

“Do not venture outside. This is a
life threatening situation for anyone who becomes stranded. Falling and blowing
snow with strong winds will create whiteout conditions making travel extremely
dangerous.

“Do not travel. If you must travel,
have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your
vehicle,” it read.

Monitor

Cayman Airways did not run a direct
flight to Washington, DC, last weekend so was not affected. The
next scheduled direct services to DC on Cayman Airways are Saturday, 13 and
Saturday 20 February.

“When we have customers who are
impacted by cancelled flights due to bad weather in any of our gateways, we
ensure that each customer is re-accommodated on a later flight to their
destination,” said Cayman Airways’ Olivia Scott-Ramirez, manager, Marketing and
Corporate Communications, Cayman Airways.

Continental Airlines suspended all
operations out of its Newark Liberty International
Airport hub in New York. The travel chaos also hit Amtrak, which
cancelled southbound services from Washington and trains to New York due to the snow as well as fallen
trees and power outages on Tuesday. There were reduced services operating on
the north-eastern corridor on Wednesday.