DISCUSSION: Since the onset of the global aviation industry, there is no question that winter weather issues are consistently a major concern for the timeliness, the safety, and the overall reputation of given global aviation networks. Across the north-central U.S. and even more so across the northeastern U.S. states, it is not uncommon to find a Winter-time scenario where you find a relatively minor winter weather event or even an all-out blizzard slowing ground and air travel to a slow crawl (or even halt). The obvious impacts which most people think of is how a given winter storm will affect their specific travel plans and what that could mean for their upcoming schedule in terms of arrival times and other corresponding accommodations at their destination.
However, there is substantially more than just that which goes into figuring out how and to what extent winter weather can affect both national and international aviation networks and interconnected aviation networks therein. For starters, one of the major issues is that when a major snowstorm impacts (for example) the Interstate-95 (I-95) corridor from roughly Washington D.C. to Bangor, Maine, such a storm can impact major airports including (but certainly not limited to) Washington Dulles International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Boston Logan International Airport in a dramatic fashion.
Now, as much as such flight delays and/or cancellations can be a major inconvenience for impacted travelers trying to fly out of those cities, there are other “pieces to this puzzle” which are not always quite as obvious to the average traveler. More specifically, whenever a given flight is delayed and/or cancelled out of a given airport, all the passengers who are ticketed for a delayed and/or cancelled flight are consequently not able to make connecting flights at other airports which leads to increased airport and travel congestion in each impacted region due to a winter storm. Thus, this acts to prevent passengers from leaving and thus leads to a surplus of people awaiting flight arrangements for the following day with a finite number of flights scheduled to leave the airport on a given day. Thus, making the travel headaches in an impacted city that much more complicated.
Moreover, not only do major winter storms have the potential to impact regional and national travel, but they can often impact global aviation networks via a given winter storm preventing other flights from around the world to depart for any of the above impacted cities along the I-95 corridor. Therefore, many larger aircraft which are responsible for most of the service for longer international flights are consequently grounded which can potentially leave hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded and waiting for alternate connecting flights to get around the worst of a given snowstorm from cities spread around the world. Furthermore, there are only so many aircraft in a given commercial airline company which can sustain the mileage needed to get across large oceanic basin such as the Atlantic and/or the Pacific Oceans. This reality will place further limits on how long it will take a given airline to restore a sense of balance in their global aviation flight plan for the days and even to up a week after a given snowstorm comes to an end. Thus, this goes to show that the national and international impacts from a blockbuster winter storm are not even close to as simple as one may think.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz