Snow, ice could make mess of flights this weekend

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    A developing winter storm threatened to make a mess for air travelers as it moved across the country into the weekend.

    The storm was still gathering strength in the Southwest, but it was forecast to spread heavy rain, snow and icy weather as it tracked east across Texas, Oklahoma and the Southeast. By Sunday, heavy snow was expected to develop across parts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, with up to a foot possible for parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

    The weekend forecast is still coming into focus, but – so far – it appeared that most major hubs were expected to see only rain. The big exception was Charlotte, where several inches of snow were possible on Sunday. That could likely create significant problems at the airport, a hub for American Airlines.

    Weekend travelers also should keep an eye on Atlanta. Current forecasts showed the rain-snow line remaining north of the city, but rainy and blustery weather could still affect operations there.

    Beyond that, heavy snow was forecast mostly for smaller or mid-sized airports like Asheville, North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia. But the impact at those types of airports could be severe, if current forecasts hold.  Wintry weather was also possible at airports like Raleigh/Durham and Greensboro in North Carolina and Greenville/Spartanburg in South Carolina.

    So far, Southwest was the only carrier to begin waiving rebooking fees for the storm. Its waivers focus on areas in the Southwest, Texas and Oklahoma, where ice and snow were possible by Friday morning.

    It was almost certain that Southwest and other airlines would begin rolling out waivers for airports in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic as forecasts begin to firm up.

    For now, Southwest’s waiver covered Thursday and Friday travelers scheduled to fly through five airports in the region: Albuquerque; Amarillo and Lubbock in Texas; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa in Oklahoma. Southwest does not charge change fees, but its waiver allowed flyers at those airports to make one change to their itineraries without paying a recalculated fare.

    Elsewhere in Texas, it appeared likely that major hubs in Dallas and Houston were not going to see wintry weather. Travelers may want to keep an eye on Houston, however. Thunderstorms and heavy rain of up to 10 inches were forecast through Saturday, which could create problems at airports there if flooding restricts access to the airports.

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