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Runways closed at Reagan National, BWI

Update (2:50 p.m.): No flights are arriving or departing at Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International airports because of heavy snowfall. Reagan National's runways will be closed until 6 a.m. Sunday, when officials will reassess based on the weather situation. BWI hopes to reopen a runway later today. A spokeswoman said Dulles is handling a limited number of arrivals and departures.

Update (2:17 p.m.): Airline dispatchers are struggling Saturday afternoon to salvage schedules on Sunday.

They are reviewing whether they can send extra planes to Washington airports to get a headstart on the backlog of passengers affected by cancellations.

Those plans could be thwarted by the weather conditions. For example, National Airport halted arrival traffic of diminished visibility caused by blowing snow.

"We're trying to decide airport by airport where to put planes overnight so we can decide where to fly tomorrow morning," said Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins. "It sounds like at the moment the hot zones are BWI and Philly."

Separately, United Airlines has extended its flight cancellations to cover all flights from Washington-area airports through 7 p.m. Saturday. Previously, the airline had canceled Saturday flights through 3:30 pm. United Airlines, a major user of Dulles airport, says it has canceled about 500 flights, about one-seventh of its worldwide schedule, because of the storm.

Airline ticket holders should note that different carriers process passengers on canceled flights in different ways. United Airlines automatically rebooks passengers and waives change fees. United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson encouraged people to check for updated flight itineraries at united.com. He said only passengers who cannot make the new schedules should call the airlines. He added that customers should not go the airport if they know their flight has been canceled.

"There is very little an airport agent can do for you that you cannot do at united.com or reservations," he said. "If you know your flight is canceled don't go out to the airport in the snow.

Southwest Airlines has its own approach. The airline encourages its passengers to make new flight arrangements by going to its Web site.

"If you don't want to mess with travel for the next four or five days, you don't have to call us now," Hawkins said. "We can revisit it when things calm down."

Update (11:45 a.m.): Arrivals at Reagan National Airport have been halted because of decreased visibility, but the airport remains open.

Update (11:35 a.m.): As of 11 a.m., BWI said airlines have canceled 110 flights.

Update (10:40 a.m.): Weather conditions are expected to continue to slow flight operations in the Washington region, airport officials say.

Dulles and National airports have logged less than 15 flights at each airport today. Before the storm, the airports had expected 530 flights at National and 740 at Dulles. At Dulles, flights are rotating between two runways as crews work to clear snow and ice. BWI and National crews are focusing on keeping a single runway at each airport open.

Most airlines canceled the bulk of their Washington flights Friday.

"We've not heard from airlines [about] any changes in their plans," said Robert Yingling, a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman.

The airports continue to advise passengers to check with their airlines for new information.

Update (6:30 a..m.): The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that crews have been working throughout the night to clear runways at Reagan National and Dulles.

As we have been reporting, most of the flights in and out of the Washington region have been canceled for today. The airports authority and BWI officials say people should check with their airlines before going to the airport.

Update (12:15 a..m.): Jet Blue is also allowing travelers to rebook without a fee if they were scheduled to depart from certain airports, including BWI and Dulles. Information is available here.

Virgin America also announced that it was canceling all flights to and from Dulles on Saturday. You can call 1-877-359-8474 to rebook. Information is available on Virgin America's Web site.

Original post: Since we're in the midst of the holidays, many people had made travel plans for this weekend. But the winter storm rolling in has caused delays and cancellations across the area. The Weather Channel reported at 11:20 p.m. that there are people camping in the airports in the hope of catching rescheduled flights on Saturday.

Web sites for the local airports may be difficult to load due to the heavy volume of people trying to find out the same information. You can try checking the Dulles and Reagan National airport sites. The BWI link is here.

It may work better if you check directly with your airline. Delta, as we reported earlier, has a statement on its Web site that says "winter weather travel waivers have been issued' for the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic.

Updates from Southwest Airlines, are available on this page. Southwest says it has canceled most of its flights from BWI until 2 p.m. Saturday. Most Southwest flights at Dulles have been cancelled until 4 p.m. Saturday.

Information on rebooking a flight on AirTran Airways is available here. AirTran has said customers can change reservations without penalty as long as travel is completed within five days from the original departure date. The airline wants passengers to check the Web site or call 1-800-247-8726

By Michael Bolden  |  December 18, 2009; 11:15 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Airports  
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