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Why So Many U.S. Flights Are Delayed This Week

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© Courtesy weather.com/National Weather Service

By Laura Dannen Redman, Condé Nast Traveler

Do you live somewhere between Maine and North Carolina? Has your flight been delayed this week? If so, you're not alone: Heavy rain and thunderstorms up and down the East Coast have slowed air traffic to a crawl since Sunday, with a spike yesterday—1,431 cancellations and 8,846 delays nationwide—and 18,891 delays since Sunday, according to flight tracker site Flight Aware.

Most of today's U.S. delays are happening at Newark-Liberty, JFK, LaGuardia, and Philadelphia International; as of now, 18-25 percent of flights in and out aren't on time (about 3,100 flights).

[post_ads]Several colleagues who struggled to get back to work from weekends away had tales: of hours-long delays at Chicago O'Hare, where many travelers had been grounded trying to fly back east; another colleague's flight out of Minneapolis delayed for three hours until it was ultimately canceled (after they'd been on the plane, gone out to the runway, and then returned to the gate and got off the plane to wait). Some might say "this just sounds like another day of flying in and out of LaGuardia," but as much as we love to bemoan the beleaguered airport, it's bigger than that this week.

The coastal soak—and delays, and cancellations—comes in part from a "powerful plunge of the jet stream— by July standards—which has carved into the East and will sit in place for the next several days," reports weather.com. "This pattern is tapping a plume of deep, tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea into the Eastern Seaboard around high pressure in the Atlantic. Given the potential for repetitive rounds of rain over some of the same areas through Wednesday, flash flooding will develop in spots." Translation? It not's getting better anytime soon.

If you're leaving town this week (or trying to get back home), check your flight's status well before you go. If you're already at the airport and your flight's delayed once or twice, start researching your options. Get on the phone with a representative if you can—they'll often be able to rebook you faster. Other tips? Fly early in the morning so you have more options later in the day should you be delayed, and get ready to pay up if you're stuck somewhere overnight: You won't be financially compensated for any weather-related flight delays or cancellations in the U.S., so it pays to be prepared—and to beat everyone else to those airport hotels if you're, you know, not interested in sleeping on the airport floor.

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