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January 06. 2014 9:09PM

JetBlue calls halt in Boston, N.Y., hopes to resume service today

JetBlue Airways Corp., struggling to resume normal flights after winter storms that began last week, will temporarily halt service at all three New York-area airports and its base in Boston.

Operations wound down Monday afternoon at New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New Jersey’s Newark Liberty and Boston Logan before stopping at 5 p.m. local time, and won’t resume until 10 a.m. today, JetBlue spokesmen said. The New York-based carrier said it scrubbed 526 flights as of 4 p.m.

JetBlue is counting on the suspension to give it time to reposition planes and crews after fresh snow fell Sunday in Chicago on the heels of a storm that lashed the Northeast. Those systems snarled flights as the first full work week of 2014 got under way and holiday travel drew to a close.

“They’ll take the hit for doing this,” said Robert Mann, who runs aviation consultant R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, N.Y. “But at least they will have given their customers some certainty. The big test is whether service restarts as anticipated.”

JetBlue’s cancellations erased more than half of the airline’s daily schedule of about 900 flights, according to Anders Lindstrom, a spokesman.

Industrywide cancellations Monday exceeded 3,700, pushing the total past 10,000 in four days, as other carriers struggled to rebuild their schedules, industry data tracker FlightAware.com reported.

Southwest Airlines Co. suspended flights into Chicago’s Midway International Airport Monday as an arctic cold front gripped the city, Dan Landson, a spokesman for the Dallas-based carrier, said by phone. Southwest is the busiest airline at Midway.

Temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago prompted airlines to cancel about 1,600 flights at O’Hare International Airport and 85 at Midway, the city’s aviation department said in a news release.

JetBlue’s disruptions probably will evoke memories of its six-day effort to recover from an ice storm on Feb. 14, 2007, Mann said. Planes were grounded across the airline’s network, stranding fliers on jets and in terminals for as long as 10 hours.

JetBlue is the biggest domestic carrier by passengers at both Kennedy and Logan airports, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. New York’s airports together make up the busiest U.S. travel market; disruptions there can ripple through the nation’s airspace.
“While we have to reduce operations in our northeast cities today, we’ll take the opportunity to use some of those planes and crews for extra sections between cities where they’re most needed and move crews in preparation for starting back up on Tuesday,” JetBlue said on its website.

The airline also said its toll-free customer service number was suffering from unspecified “issues,” and asked for travelers’ patience while that line was restored.


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