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US carriers cancel flights as extreme cold hits Midwest

US airlines canceled hundreds of flights on 30 January as record-breaking cold temperatures descended upon the Midwest USA.

Flight tracking website FlightStats.com reports airlines cancelled more than 2,500 US flights as of mid-afternoon on 30 January. The website does not specify how many of those flights were cancelled because of weather.

The major hub of Chicago’s O’Hare International airport felt the brunt of cancellations. The Chicago Department of Aviation’s website shows about 1,500 cancellations affecting O’Hare, as well as about 320 at the nearby Chicago Midway International Airport.

The National Weather Service warned of “dangerously cold” wind chills as cold as -46°C (-50°F) in northeastern Illinois on 30 January.

American Airlines canceled 675 flights on 30 January due to the extreme temperatures and a winter storm. That number includes about 270 departures from Chicago O’Hare, the airline says.

United Airlines “proactively canceled” 80% of its schedule at O’Hare – about 500 flights largely affecting regional routes – the same day, United tells FlightGlobal.

United said it has waived change fees for passengers traveling through O’Hare until 1 February, and American issued a travel alert covering 35 airports that allowed customers to rebook if impacted by the weather

Southwest Airlines said it had canceled about 600 flights by midday on 30 January and that it may make further adjustments in the coming days. Delta Air Lines had canceled about 80 flights as of midday.

In addition to deicing aircraft and removing snow, airlines including Delta and United said they were taking extra measures to ensure that employees could take frequent breaks to warm up.

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