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Halle Crawford rests on her bag Lambert-St. Louis International Airport after her flight to New York was cancelled because of snow Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis.Jeff Roberson / AP

A spate of freezing and inclement weather wreaked havoc on the nation's airline system in January, leading to an estimated 49,000 canceled flights, 300,000 delayed flights, and costing passengers more than $2.5 billion. The total disruption was greater than during Hurricane Sandy, according to an analysis by masFlight, a software company specializing in airline operations.

The travel snafus resulting in headaches and hassles and an increase of approximately 18 hours to passenger travel times. Passenger costs included productivity losses, time spent and difficulty rebooking, and additional expenses, such as hotel rooms and meals.

Regional airports bore the brunt of the cancellations, accounting for two-thirds of the total.

Compounding the issue were new federal safety rules that limit the number of hours pilots can be on duty, whether or not they fly. Intended to prevent accidents involving pilot fatigue, such as a 2009 Colgan Air crash that left 50 dead, the 2012 regulations can make it harder for airlines without increased staffing levels and modified operating procedures to recover from big storms.