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Thousands of Flights Canceled Amid Major Blizzard

Thousands of flights to the East Coast were canceled as a potentially historic blizzard is set to dump up to three feet of snow in the Northeast from New York City to Boston.
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Thousands of flights to the East Coast were canceled as a potentially historic blizzard is set to dump up to three feet of snow in the Northeast from New York City to Boston.

Airlines canceled thousands of flights and issued waivers, as travel disruptions from a major Northeast blizzard rippled across the U.S. Friday. Some Amtrak train service was also halted as the storm could leave record amounts of snow, according to forecasters. (Read more: 'Dangerous' Snowstorm Nemo Finds the Northeast)

Airlines have canceled more than 4,200 flights on Friday and Saturday due to the blizzard, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.

Airlines generally shut down operations Friday afternoon at the three big New York-area airports as well as Boston, Providence, Portland, Maine, and other Northeastern airports. They were hoping to resume flights on Saturday.

The blizzard snarled air travel in Canada, too, with 240 flights canceled on Friday at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

Airlines on Thursday began proactively canceling flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday bound for the region. And most major carriers were waiving change fees and cancellation penalties. (Read more: Airlines Waive Change Fees as Major Northeast Winter Storm Nears)

Amtrak also suspended northbound train service out of New York and southbound service from Boston Friday afternoon, according to an advisory on Amtrak's website. But commuter lines including the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North and New Jersey Transit had added trains in the afternoon to get commuters home before the worst hit.

Stranded by the Storm? Helpful Travel Tips

Go online. Getting through to airlines or Amtrak on the phone for rebooking assistance will be difficult. Your best bet is to change or cancel your reservations online. If you didn't book directly with an airline or Amtrak, start with your booking source, whether it was a travel agent or online agency such as Priceline, Expedia or Orbitz.

Ask an elite friend. If you do call and don't have elite status with your airline, consider asking a friend who has elite status to telephone on your behalf and conference you in. Higher priority is given to elite frequent-fliers and their calls jump to the head of the line. (Read more: How Flying, Just for the Miles, Can Pay Off)

Keep checking online. Airline availability, of course, changes constantly. Seats can pop up at any time and I've often found availability on a previously sold-out flight, when searching again later, sometimes even by mere minutes.

Buy a day pass. If you're stuck at an airport, consider buying a day pass to the airline's lounge. Customer service lines are often shorter inside the lounge.

Find local hotel deals. And finally, while airlines generally don't provide hotels for weather-related cancellations, they do often have recommendations for local hotels that offer distressed traveler rates. It might make sense to stand in a customer service line to ask.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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