US airline passengers hit by more chaos after deadly snowstorm

US airline passengers face continued disruption following a deadly blizzard that swept across the country over the Christmas period, with thousands of flights still canceled on Tuesday.

According to flight tracking site FlightAware, more than 3,000 US flights were canceled as of Tuesday night and more than 6,000 were delayed.

The majority of canceled flights were operated by Southwest Airlines, which accounted for 64% of Tuesday’s cancellations, according to FlightAware.

Southwest said it would only operate a third of its flight schedule “for the next few days” due to “continued challenges affecting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable.”

On Monday, the US Department of Transportation wrote on Twitter, “USDOT is concerned about Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays and reports of lack of prompt customer service.”

The chaos of the trip comes in the wake of a blizzard that left more than two dozen dead and thousands without power.

States across the United States were hit by the storm, with the hardest hit region being New York’s Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city.

The blizzard, which meteorologists have described as a “bomb cyclone”, meaning a rapidly intensifying storm, sent temperatures across the United States plummeting to minus 40C over the Christmas period.

The National Weather Service had warned last week that more than 200 million people, or about 60% of the US population, were in some form of winter weather warning or advisory.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Tuesday the death toll in the area has risen to 31.

“We are recovering from the worst storm I have ever seen, certainly in terms of deaths due to mother nature’s wrath,” he said.

A number of deaths were cardiac events related to shoveling and blowing snow. The storm was deadlier than the 1977 New York blizzard, where 29 people died.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul called it an “epic, once-in-a-lifetime” weather disaster.

President Joe Biden declared an emergency in New York City late Monday, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.

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