Airlines Waive Change Fees In Northeast As Another Winter Storm Approaches

(AP)- With more snow forecast for the Northeast this weekend, major U.S. airlines hit hard by a December blizzard are warning of delays and cancellations and waiving the usual fees to change flights.

American, United and Continental all say there could be travel disruptions at large airports such as Newark, LaGuardia and JFK in the New York City area. The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches from eastern Pennsylvania to Vermont ahead of the storm.

AMR Corp.'s American said Thursday that customers scheduled to fly to, from or through 14 airports in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts on Saturday or Sunday can change their itinerary without paying the usual $150 rebooking fee if they begin their rescheduled trip no later than Monday.

United and Continental, owned by United Continental Holdings Inc., made a similar announcement covering travel at 14 airports in the Northeast between Friday and Monday. They also normally charge $150 to change a domestic booking but will waive the fee and any difference in fare if the rescheduled trip starts by Jan. 23.

Delta planned an announcement later Thursday.

Airlines often waive change fees when bad weather is forecast and advise passengers to call and check on flights before heading to the airport. The airlines are still reeling from late-December storms that caused the cancellation of more than 10,000 flights and delayed travel plans for hundreds of thousands of passengers. Aviation data provider said North American airlines canceled more than 29,000 flights last month, up from about 21,000 in December 2009.

Delta Air Lines Inc. said Wednesday that severe weather in the U.S. and Europe last month will cut $45 million from its fourth-quarter earnings. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect the company to report adjusted earnings of about $210 million for the period.

George Hobica of travel website said airlines are canceling more flights ahead of time to avoid penalties when planes sit on the tarmac for more than three hours.