March 1, 2018 2:35 pm
Updated: March 1, 2018 2:37 pm

Winter storm Riley has major airlines waiving cancellation fees — here’s what to know

A file photo of travellers at New York's La Guardia Airport.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A powerful nor’easter expected to bring heavy rain, high wind, and snow to the U.S. has major airlines waiving cancellation fees.

Winter storm Riley is expected to hit several U.S. states beginning Thursday afternoon, then intensify overnight. By Friday afternoon, the winter storm will bring in high winds, rain and heavy snowfall.

Global News’ chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell explained that there is also a risk of flooding.

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READ MORE: Special weather statement issued for Toronto due to snowfall Thursday night

“With pressures falling rapidly, winds will pick up over the ocean creating several flooding high tides for coastal communities of New England, including the potential for a record high tide in Boston,” he said.

“This is made worse by the astronomical high tides due to the full moon. On top of the tidal flooding, massive waves will cause additional damage to coastal homes and property.”

As rain turns into snow, some New York and New England cities could see as much as 30 to 60 centimetres of the white stuff.

WATCH: Special winter weather statement issued for southern Ontario

The active weather will be worse in the United States and last into the weekend — but Canadian cities won’t be spared.

Farnell added that Toronto will get a mix of rain and snow Thursday evening, resulting in about one to five centimetres of slush by the morning.

As much as 15 centimetres of snow is expected in Hamilton, Ont., with 15-25 centimetres in the Niagara region.

Environment Canada has issued special weather statements for several parts of the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

Several airlines have already waived their cancellation fees for flights in anticipation of the storm.

READ MORE: Satellites capture vivid images of ‘bomb cyclone’

Here’s what to know:


WestJet informed Global News in an email that there are no cancellations in place for the U.S. cities, but there is an advisory for passengers in Boston and New York.

“We advise anyone travelling to or from these cities between March 2 and March 3 to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport. In addition, we have implemented flexible change/cancel rules where we will waive change cancel fees on these routes.”

The airline is also warning of delays in Toronto, Kitchener and Hamilton on the same days due to the expected snow.

READ MORE: Niagara Falls’ breathtaking winter views are the upside of this extreme cold

Air Canada

Air Canada currently does not have any advisories listed on its website for the U.S. cities. It has a weather advisory for Toronto‘s Pearson Airport and Billy Bishop Airport, and is offering free flight changes.

WATCH: Timelapse of falling snow on Vancouver streets

American Airlines

American Airlines says passengers travelling between March 2 and 3 to or from airports in New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts can change their flight without a fee.

Customers can change their trip on the airline’s website. 

PHOTOS: Here’s what an extreme cold snap looks like in Canada


Passengers travelling with JetBlue between March 2 and 3 can change or cancel their tickets for cities in the following states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

More information on which cities are affected can be found on JetBlue’s website.

WATCH: How to dress for cold weather


Delta has also waived cancellation and rescheduling fees ahead of the storm. Customers who are affected must re-book flights before March 6 to be eligible for free changes.

These are the cities affected: Boston, Mass., Hartford, Conn., New York, Newark, N.J., Newburgh, N.Y., Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and White Plains, N.Y.

READ MORE: ‘Bomb cyclone’ leaves thousands of flights in Canada and U.S. delayed or cancelled


United Airlines has waived change fees for the affected regions, but customers must re-book before March 7.

A full list of the cities affected — and rules for changing reservations — is on the airline’s website. 

— With files from The Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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