Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
More than 700 flights had been canceled as of 9 a.m. Thursday morning, marking the fourth consecutive day that wintry weather has created significant headaches for air travelers.
All told, more than 7,300 flights nationwide have been canceled since Monday. The problems have been centered mostly in the Midwest and the South but also rippled out to touch most corners of the nation.
Flexible rebooking policies and change-fee waivers remained in effect at most big airlines as they tried to get passengers grounded by weather problems back on their ways.
Fortunately for fliers and the airlines, a recovery of flight schedules could be near. Thursday's cancellation count - so far - is only about a third of 2,300-plus flights that were grounded the day before, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. And more than 500 of the morning's 700 cancellations were preemptively made on Wednesday. That offers fliers a sliver of hope in that Thursday's cancellation tally has not climbed dramatically since the morning, indicating most of the day's problems are the result of planes or crew being out of place from Wednesday's disruptions.
The hardest-hit airport for the second day in a row was Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world's busiest airport and the biggest hub for Delta Air Lines. Nearly 200 departures and more than 225 arrivals had been canceled there as of 8:20 a.m. Thursday, according to FlightAware.
That's down from the more-than-1,100 combined arrival and departure delays there on Wednesday. That perhaps indicates airport operations are at least inching back toward normal as the Atlanta metro area reboots following 2 to 3 inches of snow that surprisingly brought the city to a standstill for nearly an entire day.
Elsewhere Thursday, significant flight disruptions appeared to be easing at busy hubs like Chicago O'Hare, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Chicago Midway, Cleveland and Charlotte. Those hubs also suffered hundreds of delays and cancellations earlier this week, meaning there's likely already a backlog of disrupted passengers trying to fly to, from or through those airports.
And some Southern airports hit by this week's unusual winter weather have been slow to return to normal operations. FlightAware showed notable cancellation counts at airports like Mobile, Ala.; Pensacola, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; and Wilmington, N.C., as of 9 a.m. ET on Thursday.