Lord of the Fliers: Will Anarchy Break Out Among Throngs of Stranded Air Travelers?


Robert Mann, an airline consultant and president of R.W. Mann and Co., said airlines will save a bit of money on fuel from the canceled flights but are spending a small fortune on things such as de-icing.

He said about 1,000 gallons are needed for a single-aisle jet, at about $12 a gallon of de-icing fluid.

Airlines Lose, Travelers Bear Extra Costs

The airlines' losses might be limited because there is very little business travel this time of year. Those are the travelers who typically book last-minute, high-fare tickets. Most seats this week are booked by leisure travelers who have nonrefundable tickets.

"These people have already purchased tickets, and the airlines are just trying to get them home," said David A. Castelveter, spokesman for the airlines' trade group, the Air Transport Association of America. "Where they will lose money is from trying to sell the empty seats."

On Monday, United and Continental Airlines added a one-way "peak travel day" surcharge ($20 roundtrip) for most of their domestic flights, according to airline fare watcher website FareCompare.com. The surcharge will impact all future travel dates.

American Airlines and Delta Airlines soon followed suit with a $20 (roundtrip) fare hike for a majority of its domestic routes.

Despite the weather conditions, the hikes and charges were also prompted by other factors.

"It's worth noting that these increases come on a day in which oil prices soared to a 26-month high, which impacts the airlines' jet fuel costs," Graeme Wallace of FareCompare.com said.

Then there are the costs shouldered by travelers: hundreds of extra dollars for hotel rooms, meals, clothing and distractions while stranded.

Once they get home, add in an extra day or two of parking at the airport, that extra day of having the family dog at the kennel and any lost income from missing work.

ABC News' John Donvan and Sharyn Alfonsi contributed to this report.

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