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Home Travel Late-winter storm stymies Denver flights with potential for more spillover

Late-winter storm stymies Denver flights with potential for more spillover

by Staff

Travelers flying through the Mile High City are in for a rough Thursday.

Hundreds of flights to and from Denver were canceled outright by midday, with dozens more delayed, as the biggest storm in at least three years worked its way across Colorado.

The storm was forecasted to have an extremely tight gradient of accumulation. This means there could be big differences in snowfall totals across small areas, even just a few miles.

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Denver, which was expected to sit at the edge of the heaviest gradient, was expected to see 6-10 inches of snow Thursday into Friday, according to Accuweather; areas to the west and south of the city could see 1-3 feet.

By noon local time, just more than 800 flights to and from Denver International Airport (DEN) had been canceled, according to FlightAware — roughly 40% of the airport’s scheduled operations for the day.

Southwest was the most heavily affected airline, with 378 cancellations across its network, or 8% of its total schedule, mostly for flights touching Denver. The airport is one of Southwest’s biggest focus cities.

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Frontier and United, which also have a heavy presence in Denver, also had many cancellations. Frontier axed 126 flights (19%), and United canceled 90 (3%) of its mainline-operated flights.

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SkyWest — a regional airline that flies smaller routes on behalf of United, as well as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines — canceled 219 flights, or 11% of its operation. Most of these were scheduled to fly to or from Denver. SkyWest was scheduled to fly 258 Denver flights for United on Tuesday and four for American Airlines, according to data from Cirium.

In late 2022, Southwest suffered a multi-day operational meltdown during the holidays after becoming overwhelmed by a severe winter storm across much of the country. Its operation at Denver was severely affected, which was one of the major drivers of the collapse, even as other airlines recovered.

Since then, Southwest has touted improvements it has made to its Denver winter operations specifically; it also shared improvements regarding its broader approach to keeping the rest of its network patent when there’s a major disruption.

Related: Southwest has a plan to get back on track after holiday meltdown. Here’s what execs tell TPG

Since the meltdown, Southwest’s improvements seem to have helped the airline bounce back after disruptions due to weather or other issues.

However, Thursday’s storm will be the first real test of the resiliency it’s worked into the Denver operation. So, all eyes will be on Southwest and the Mile High City as the snow tapers off.

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