Last update: 6:30 p.m. ET. Next update: By 10 p.m. ET.
Wednesday will likely go down as one of the worst air travel days of the year for 2018.
More than 4,425 flights were canceled across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Wednesday as of 6:30 p.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. More than 3,200 of those had been canceled preemptively by late Tuesday, but the figure continued to balloon into Wednesday afternoon.
The snarled schedules are courtesy of a late-season nor’easter that brought snow to nearly every major city along the coast. New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston were all expected to see wintry weather from the storm, the fourth to hit the region in three weeks.
Cancellations already were spilling into Thursday, with more than 580 preemptively grounded. Combined with about 730 storm-related cancellations on Tuesday, the latest nor’easter has forced the cancellation of more than 5,480 flights during the past three days.
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For Wednesday, the three New York City-area airports were among the hardest hit. About 3 out of every 4 flights was canceled for the day at both LaGuardia and Newark.
At JFK and Philadelphia, about half the day’s flights had been canceled as of 6:30 p.m. ET. Airports in Washington, Baltimore and Boston each also were seeing major schedule disruptions.
American, the world’s biggest carrier, had already suspended flights at LaGuardia and Newark and said it would to the same at JFK around 1 p.m. American’s Newark flights could resume Wednesday evening, but the airline said there would be no fligths at the other two airports until Thursday.
Echoing a trend that’s become common in recent years, most of Wednesday’s cancellations were made preemptively as airlines pared flight schedules ahead of the storm. By doing so, carriers are able to keep planes from becoming stranded in poor weather more easily than if they continued to operate until the worst of the weather moved in.
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That also allows airlines to quickly hit the restart button once the weather clears without having to worry about planes or crews that became stuck in unexpected places.
Related, airlines have also become increasingly proactive in rolling out flexible rebooking policies that let customers move their travel dates away from stormy weather without paying standard change and rebooking fees.
Every big U.S. airline flying to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast had already done so for passengers ticketed to fly there this week.
Details of the airline weather waiver policies varied by carrier, but they generally covered Tuesday and Wednesday travel for numerous airports from northern Virginia through New England. Some airlines included Thursday travel.
Most policies allowed fliers to make one change to their itineraries — with some restrictions — without paying extra. Some also have the option to apply the full remaining value of their tickets toward future travel.
Scroll down for links to the weather waivers currently in place:
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