Last month's rash of winter storms wasn't merely inconvenient. For the airlines, it was pretty darn expensive, too. According to the Associated Press (AP), US Airways and Continental say the storms cost them a combined $55 million. Estimates for the industry on a whole range between $80 and $100 million.
For US Airways and Continental, that amounts to 1 percent of their projected revenue for the quarter. The AP reports that US Airways, which has more flights along the East Coast than any other airline, had to suspend flights at three of its biggest airports for six days, and canceled 7 percent of its flights overall. Continental was forced to shut down its major hub at Newark.
According to Flightstats.com, 7,400 flights were cancelled in total across the seven largest airports affected, from Washington, D.C., to New York.
That said, some analysts say the airlines handled this round of bad weather better than in the past, proactively cancelling flights and sparing travelers an ultimately pointless trip to the airport. Airlines were also agressive in offering rebooking flexibility, with change-fee waivers usually made available before the storm arrived. Expect this approach to continue and even intensify when the Department of Transportation's new tarmac delay rules take effect this spring.