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This has been a winter of epic proportions: tens of thousands of canceled flights, hundreds of millions in lost revenue, and it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet. According to Bloomberg, “Airlines may be headed for more than $600 million in weather-related losses as U.S. winter storms trigger the most flight cancellations since the government began tracking the data in 1987.”
Since November 1, Bloomberg reports, 89,884 flights have been canceled. Not all of those cancellations are due to weather, of course, but winter storms are responsible for an overwhelming majority. Last week’s storm alone kicked in 14,000 cancellations over just two days. Cancellations for all of last week accounted for 13 percent of all flights, Bloomberg reports.
With per-flight revenue estimated at around $7,000, airlines have lost approximately $629 million, airline analyst Vaughn Cordle of AirlineForecasts, LLC., tells Bloomberg.
The question for consumers is, if winter continues to disrupt operations, will airlines be forced to recoup lost revenue through fare or fee hikes? Coupled with an unstable and increasingly worrisome fuel cost scenario, airlines are already feeling a pinch. Former Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher told Bloomberg the first quarter, January to March, is usually the softest quarter of the year anyway. To cut into already diminished revenue, on top of an escalating fuel cost situation, means airlines may have to make up ground during the busier summer months.
Needless to say, everyone from airline executives to consumers could use a break from winter’s unrelenting wrath.