drama in the sky
U.S. airlines are already understaffed because of COVID-19, and the weather isn't helping matters.
The jet stream winds have been unusually strong for several days, affecting transcontinental flights. Those going eastbound on Wednesday were arriving up to an hour earlier than scheduled, while westbound flights were slowed down, some delayed by as much as 45 minutes. Earlier this week, the headwinds were so strong that a Phoenix-bound American Airlines flight from Boston had to stop in Oklahoma City to refuel, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Richard Bann, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, told the Journal that winds of upwards of 230 miles an hour are being recorded over the Great Lakes, and the jet stream could remain elevated for a week. In order to ensure that flights coming in early and late aren't landing too close together, the Federal Aviation Administration said it is regulating departures.
Thousands of flights have been canceled in the last few days, due to snow in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest combined with staffing shortages caused by pilots, flight attendants, and other airline crew members testing positive for COVID-19. Flight Aware data shows Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has been hit the hardest, with Newark Liberty International, Chicago O'Hare, and Los Angeles International all experiencing above-average cancelation rates. As of Wednesday night, more than 500 flights have already been canceled for Thursday.