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JEREMY HOBSON: Well, the day's just getting started, but the cross-country winter storm is already causing major disruptions to air travel.

And as Marketplace's Scott Tong reports, this could be the worst month ever for cancellations.

SCOTT TONG: The worst month ever was last February, when 20,000 flights were canceled. But just two days into this February, we're already at 12,000. And 26 more days to go. Seth Kaplan with industry publication Airline Weekly, says this storm is so damaging because it's taken out key connection cities Chicago and Dallas.

SETH KAPLAN: Even if you're trying to go from one place that' s not affected to another place that's not affected, you might have a connection there.

He says airlines today would rather cancel fights than risk delays. Why? A brand new law penalizes airlines that strand passengers on the tarmac.

KAPLAN: It's just another reason to perhaps say, you know what, let's go ahead and proactively cancel it.

By the way, those penalties for stranding passengers are stiff. $27,000 per customer.

In Washington I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

Follow Scott Tong at @tongscott