The massive flight delays and cancellations this month due to the winter storms and then the bitter cold have cost the airlines and passengers $1.4 billion, according to masFlight, an airline consulting firm.
“The [$1.4 billion] is probably an accurate number … but it includes everything,” aviation expert Michael Boyd speculated.
The masFlight analysis of the 95,000 industry flight delays and cancellations from Jan. 1 to Jan. 6 showed a cost to passengers of $37.60 per hour or nearly a billion dollars, with an additional cost to airlines of $4,690 per hour or $452 million.
(Read more: Polar vortex a $5 billion black hole for US economy)
“I don’t want to make light of it, but this is not going to be as big a hit to the airline industry overall for the year as it might look today,” the president of the Boyd Group said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
He did predict that JetBlue will probably be affected the most, because of the carrier’s extraordinary step Monday of grounding all flights for 17 hours at the four biggest airports in the New York-area and Boston.
“I think what JetBlue did is the right thing. You can’t operate, you shut it down,” Boyd said. “The reality is JetBlue probably inconvenienced thousands fewer by doing what they did.”
(Read more: Bone-chilling cold paralyzes flights, trains)
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, JetBlue defended the move—saying it decided to suspend flights to protect its aircraft and personnel from freezing temperatures and potential icy conditions on the ground.
New rules calling for longer pilot rest times—which went into effect over the weekend—complicated the already-tough weather situation, the carrier said.
While other airlines also had troubles with freezing fueling equipment, they didn’t cancel flights to the same extent as JetBlue, which is based in the Northeast where the weather has been especially extreme.
The carrier ramped-up operations Tuesday and expects to have a near-normal schedule as of Wednesday out of John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and Boston’s Logan.