El Nino Said to Create Turbulence for Air Travellers in 2016
Bumpy flights. Flight delays and cancellations. Longer travel times.
These are just some of the side effects of El Nino - weather systems that form every few years when the warm waters of the central Pacific ocean expand towards the Americas. The current El Nino is the strongest since 1998 and is expected to be in the top three most powerful systems on record.
Already California residents are bracing for several days of record-setting rains that start today. Northern California could receive up to 15in (38.1cm) of rain over the next two weeks. A weather expert called the series of storms a "conveyer belt" and cautioned that it could eventually trigger major landslides.
Airports in the Bay Area - especially San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - will be particularly vulnerable to delays and cancellations from weather.
Since late December passengers travelling on northern, high altitude air routes over North America have been experiencing more frequent and more severe turbulence. On December 30 an Air Canada pilot advised travellers on an eastbound flight from Victoria to Toronto that the El Nino effect was creating more turbulence and that passengers should keep their seat belts fastened as much as possible. (Just days earlier an Air Canada Boeing 777 flying from Shanghai to Toronto experienced severe air turbulence and had to divert to Calgary after heavy shaking injured more than 20 onboard).
Because of the wavy jet stream experts say flight times on some routes will be longer, resulting in more fuel consumption and delays.
My Savvy Traveller advises travellers to keep abreast of weather reports and to make adjustments accordingly. Remember too that most airlines do not compensate travellers or offer accommodation for delays or missed connections due to weather. Check your travel insurance details and upgrade to a plan with more perks if necessary.