Airlines waive fees for winter storm that could snarl weekend flights

This map from the National Weather Service on Dec. 7, 2018, shows a wide range of weather warnings popping up ahead of a strengthening winter storm. (Photo: National Weather Service)


A strengthening winter storm threatened to make a mess for air travelers as it moved across the country into the weekend.

The storm was forecast to spread heavy rain, snow and icy weather as it tracked east across Texas, Oklahoma and the Southeast. By Sunday, heavy snow was expected to develop across parts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, with up to a foot possible for parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

The weekend forecast is still coming into focus, but – so far – it appeared that most major hubs were expected to see only rain.

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One big exception: Charlotte, North Carolina, where icy weather and up to a half-foot of snow was possible Sunday. That could create significant problems at the airport, a hub for American Airlines.

Weekend travelers also should keep an eye on Atlanta. Current forecasts showed the rain-snow line remaining north of the city, but rainy and blustery weather could still affect operations there.

On Sunday, airports like Raleigh/Durham and Greensboro in North Carolina could see problems as several inches of snow are predicted there.

Beyond that, heavy snow was forecast mostly for smaller or mid-sized airports like Asheville in North Carolina and Roanoke in Virginia. However, the impact at those types of airports could be severe, if current forecasts hold.  Wintry weather was also possible at several other airports in the region, such as Richmond, Virginia, and Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina.

In Texas, it appeared likely that major hubs in Dallas and Houston were not going to see wintry weather. Travelers may want to keep an eye on Houston, however. Thunderstorms and heavy rain of up to 10 inches were forecast through Saturday, which could create problems at airports there if flooding restricts access to the airports.

So far, five big U.S. carriers – American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and United — were waiving rebooking charges for the storm.

Details varied by carrier, but they generally allowed customers flying from certain airports in the storm’s path to make one change – with some fine print – without paying change fees or higher fares.

Some airline policies covered airports across the South while others focused mostly on airports across the southern Plains states. But it seemed likely that most big airlines would be waiving fees for airports in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic as the storm forecast solidified.

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