Business

Thousands of canceled flights, but perhaps fewer stranded passengers

Air Transportation IndustryHotel and Accommodation IndustryMedia IndustryWeatherTimes SquareSuper Bowl XLVII

The slew of storms that has pummeled the nation's Midwest and East Coast this winter has resulted in some horrible numbers: 77,000 canceled flights carrying nearly 6 million passengers so far this year.

An additional 43 million people were on delayed flights.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, about 1,000 passengers slept in the terminals Thursday night because of 675 canceled flights in and out of the airport. The airport offered cots, blankets and baby items to delayed travelers.

But fewer passengers may be stranded at airports during the most recent monster storms. The reason: Airlines have gotten better about canceling flights long before travelers arrive and bad weather hits.

Airlines attribute this change to better weather forecasting technology and improved communications with passengers via social media, text alerts and emails.

"By proactively canceling flights, you can minimize the impacts on your customers," said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation's airlines.

But some industry experts say airlines also cancel flights early to avoid paying pilots and flight attendants for planes that will ultimately sit on a tarmac for hours. They also say airlines cancel flights early to avoid federal fines for keeping passengers stranded on delayed flights.

Don't get stuck at these airports

If you are stranded by bad weather, you don't want to be stuck in Washington's Dulles International, New York's LaGuardia, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Philadelphia International or Boston Logan International airports.

Those were the five airports rated the worst in which to be stranded, according to a survey of more than 44,000 people by the travel-dating website MissTravel.com.

The respondents based the ranking on cleanliness and access to free wireless Internet, among other factors.

Jennifer Gwynn, a spokeswoman for MissTravel, said she remembers being stuck in an airport where she spotted rats near a baggage carousel. "That didn't make me feel like I could sleep on the floor," she said.

The biggest concern for stranded fliers is free Wi-Fi, she said. "You don't want to be stuck somewhere and you can't do anything on your smartphone."

Super Bowl wasn't great for hotels

This year's Super Bowl was less than super for hotels in New York and New Jersey.

Hotel occupancy rates for Super Bowl weekend were 61% in Bergen County, N.J., 80% in New York's Times Square area and 75% in New York's uptown and midtown areas, according to the hotel consulting and analytics firm STR Analytics.

By contrast, hotels reached 99% occupancy in New Orleans during the 2013 Super Bowl and 91% in Indianapolis during the 2012 Super Bowl, according to STR Analytics.

One possible reason for the lower occupancy rates this year is that the area in New York and New Jersey has more hotel rooms to offer, making sellouts less likely, said Christopher Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Co., the city's tourism organization.

Heywood said New York City has added about 5,800 hotel rooms in the last year, bringing the total to about 96,000 rooms — three times as many rooms as either New Orleans or Indianapolis.

"We are just a much bigger destination," he said.

New York also did not get the bump in revenue that Super Bowl hosts have enjoyed in the past.

During the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, daily hotel rates shot up nearly 200% and revenue per room grew about 900%.

But in New York, where hotel rates are already the highest in the nation, daily rates during the latest Super Bowl rose only about 100% in the Times Square area, with revenue per room climbing 137%, said Carter Wilson, director of STR Analytics.

"The impact was diluted because New York is such a high-tier city to begin with," he said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Air Transportation IndustryHotel and Accommodation IndustryMedia IndustryWeatherTimes SquareSuper Bowl XLVII
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