Blizzards in US, Canada slow flights

Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Thursday to and from key United States and Canadian hubs after deadly blizzard conditions hit. 

Nearly 1,700 flights in and out of the US fell victim to Winter Storm Euclid, which swept through the Northeast and Midwest. Toronto Pearson International Airport also reported cancellations to affected destinations following another winter storm warning for some Canadian destinations.  

Matt Miller of American Airlines confirmed that no Cayman Islands direct flights had been cancelled on Wednesday or Thursday. 

“Our operation in Miami, from where we serve Grand Cayman, has also fared very well this week,” he told the Compass. 

“We’re working to re-accommodate customers affected by the winter storms as best and as quickly as possible based on their individual travel plans. We apologise for the inconvenience and encourage everyone to check [the website] before they head to the airport … Customers whose plans have been disrupted are encouraged to contact American Airlines Reservations,” Mr. Miller added. 

Although some internal WestJet services in Canada were affected on Thursday, this did not lead to a knock-on effect for the Grand Cayman flights.  

“At this point there is no risk or impact to our CGM service which … has been operating for several years now,” remarked Robert Palmer of WestJet. 

Similarly, United Airlines 1436, originating in Newark, New Jersey, was delayed by over an hour from its originally scheduled arrival of 1.50pm. 

On Thursday, Cayman Airways services were not affected, said Kathryn Walsh of the national carrier. 

“Cayman Airways services are currently operating as usual and we will continue to monitor the situation,” she said. 


Tourism impacted  

Bad weather in source markets can impact heavily on Cayman’s tourism industry in a negative or a positive way depending on severity, explained Jane van der Bol of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. 

“[W]hen bad weather affects travel, it can work for or against a destination. At this time of the year, bad weather tends to send people to warmer destinations like the Cayman Islands. When extremely bad weather affects transportation, airlift and airport closures, this causes delays in travel and cancellations of trips. 

“For destinations like the Cayman Islands that depend heavily on tourism as an industry, this can cause a decline of tourism dollars to our destination. An example is Hurricane Sandy; while Hurricane Sandy devastated many US destinations and did not directly affect the Cayman Islands, we felt the decline in tourism arrivals and income due to tourists not being able to make their planned trips,” she noted. 

The knock-on effects of cancelled trips, added Ms van der Bol, include not just hotel and travel dollars, but also “stay-over spend in hotels, restaurants, transportation, water sports and tours”. 

“Many tourists may try to postpone their trip to a later date, which in turn can affect the rates and length of stay, or worst case, completely cancel their plans. The majority of tourists that are delayed due to bad weather attempt to re-book their trips as they made a personal choice to visit the Cayman Islands” said the executive director, who added that tourism was the second-largest financial pillar and one of the largest employment sectors in Cayman. 

At press time, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority website was not reporting any cancellations or delays for Friday, 28 December. 

The storm brought snow through the Sierra Nevada on the weekend before moving to the Rockies and further south in the ensuing three days. Blizzards were reported in Oklahoma and North Texas and as of Thursday the storm was heading toward New York City and Boston. Some areas had already received a foot of snow, according to the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather service. 

According to a Thursday summary from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, winter storm warnings continued over parts of Pennsylvania, northwestern New Jersey, New York and New England. Coastal Flood advisories remained in effect from Long Island to Southern Maine whilst high wind warnings were in effect across coastal Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

At least 15 people had been reported killed due to the weather and hundreds of thousands of people were without power.