June 6, 2013

Unpacked: Stormy Summer Weather

Welcome to Unpacked, where we demystify hot topics in the airline industry! This time we’re talking about pesky stormy summer weather.

Summer is upon us, which means peak travel time for us, and hopefully a fun trip (or two!) planned for you. There’s only one thing getting in the way of a beautiful relationship between us and you – Mother Nature.

Summer thunderstorm and hurricane season typically starts in June and can run until as late as November. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service, there are about 16 million thunderstorms a year. Naturally, some of those are likely to impact our operations (and potentially your flight).

Winter is a whole other ball game when it comes to weather and challenging operations, but many of the colder weather systems that we see in the winter months are often more predictable than summer storms, and we’re able to plan our operations accordingly in advance. Learn more about how we plan operations around winter storms.

As summer thunderstorms are often less predictable than winter storms, we work closely with our Dispatch team and the FAA to monitor the air space in real time and route our planes and our people accordingly. Lightning and strong winds could mean ground delay programs, or planes that need to remain on the ground until the system passes.

Larger summer storms, also commonly known as hurricanes, produce stronger winds and rainfall and often lead to more significant delays and cancellations. We’ll generally issue fee waivers for customers to voluntarily rebook or cancel flights leading up landfall of a hurricane, and we automatically rebook customers on the next available flight when we have to cancel flights.

While hurricanes generally impact our Caribbean and Floridian operations, we’ve seen these superstorms make their way north increasingly. When a hurricane makes direct impact with a location where we have a large base of operations, as with Hurricane Sandy last October in New York, other considerations comes into play. We have to think about and plan for things like moving our planes and our crews out of the storm’s path so that all are safe and ready to return to operations when the hurricane passes.

Of course, we also work closely with our partners at the stations that we serve to ensure that airport infrastructure following a storm is in tact so that we can safely resume flying. And then there’s the work that we do outside of our operations to ensure that our crewmembers, our customers, and our communities are taken care of when a storm causes damage.

Check out our previous editions of Unpacked and stay tuned for the next up!

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