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Shake Shack set to shake up Wall Street

Written By limadu on Jumat, 30 Januari 2015 | 14.44

Shake Shack burger

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The upscale burger joint priced its initial public offering at $21 a share Thursday evening. That's above the price range Shake Shack set earlier this week, which it had already raised due to strong demand.

At $21 a share, Shake Shack is raising $105 million, making the company worth $745.5 million.

Shake Shack (SHAK) is set to debut on the New York Stock Exchange Friday morning.

To celebrate its first day as a public company, Shake Shack said it will turn the New York Stock Exchange into the New York SHACK Exchange. In other words, it plans to park a Shake Shack food truck in front of the exchange and dish up free food.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer, who is chairman of Shake Shack and founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group that started Shake Shack, owns a 21% stake in the company. His share is now worth $156.2 million.

Shake Shack, which started in 2001 as a hot dog cart in New York's Madison Square Park, has quickly become a Big Apple icon.

Expanding ... but not too quickly. The company currently operates just 63 restaurants worldwide -- but 16 of them are in the metropolitan New York City area.

And Shake Shack has already planted outposts in several global markets, such as London, Moscow, Kuwait, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Shake Shack has said that it wants to expand relatively slowly. It is targeting 10 new locations in the U.S. a year as well as more international locations.

Related: 8 of the world's craziest fast foods

The strategy has been extremely successful so far. Shake Shack reported revenue of $83.8 million in the first three quarters of last year, an increase of more than 40% from the same period in 2013.

Shake Shack is also profitable. But net income fell in the first nine months of 2014, primarily due to higher costs for paper, food and labor as the company opened more locations.

Profiting from the problems at Mickey D's? So will the stock be a big hit? Aren't consumers backing away from unhealthy burgers and fries? McDonald's (MCD) just announced its CEO is retiring after a period of weak sales.

That's true. But Shake Shack and other gourmet burger companies appear to be doing well at the expense of McDonald's.

Related: McDead? More lousy results from McDonald's

Shake Shack bills itself as a "fine casual" dining chain, a play on the fast casual term popularized by Chipotle (CMG) and Panera (PNRA).

In addition to having the backing of star chef Meyer, Shake Shack says in its IPO filing that it prides itself on using "sustainable ingredients, such as all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free beef."

The proof is in the prices. A typical burger at Shake Shack can cost twice as much as a Big Mac.

Related: $7.54 for a Big Mac? Only in Switzerland

Shake Shack also differentiates itself from other burger restaurants by selling hot dogs, beer, wine and -- of course -- frozen custard shakes.

And investors are clearly hungry for restaurant IPOs.

El Pollo Loco (LOCO), Potbelly (PBPB), Noodles (NDLS) and Zoe's Kitchen (ZOES) are just a few chains that have gone public in the past two years that have soared on their first day of trading.

There is a lot of competition in the burger wars. But those four stocks are now well off their highs.

So is Habit (HABT), a popular California burger chain that went public last November and more than doubled in its debut.

Habit may not be as well-known to New Yorkers as Shake Shack. But its burgers were voted best in America by readers of Consumer Reports last year.

To that end, competition could prove to be the biggest risk for Shake Shack.

Related: White Castle now serving veggie burgers

Even though its burgers are delicious, so are ones made by privately held Five Guys, Smashburger, Bareburger, In-N-Out and many other regional and national upstarts.

Heck, Sonic (SONC)is doing really well lately thanks to strong demand for its burgers.

So Shake Shack may soar on Friday like other restaurant IPOs have done lately.

But the challenge is going to be staying at those lofty levels. The company now has to satisfy the fickle tastes of Wall Street as well as the palates of hipster burger gourmands.

CNNMoney's Ben Rooney contributed to this report.

First Published: January 29, 2015: 6:29 PM ET


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The Bible proves to be a big seller for Newsweek

newsweek christian themed Newsweek's much-discussed Bible issue was its best seller of 2014.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The magazine's provocative cover story this week -- "What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women" -- has prompted an avalanche of online criticism.

Sound familiar?

Flash back to just one month ago, when the publication sparked an uproar with a critical cover story on the Christian holy text.

"The Bible," reads the cover headline. "So misunderstood it's a sin." The story, written by the journalist Kurt Eichenwald, inspired a series of rebuttals from Biblical scholars and devout Christians alike.

It turns out the bestselling book of all-time also helped the magazine sell a lot of issues.

Newsweek's editor-in-chief Jim Impoco confirmed to CNNMoney that "early" and "conservative" estimates show that the Bible issue will end up as the magazine's bestselling cover of 2014.

He said the number of copies sold compared with the number of copies distributed on the news stand has been an "astounding" 40% thus far.

That's "more than double the average," according to Impoco. For good measure, he said the story also racked up 500,000 hits online.

Striking covers like that are nothing new for Newsweek (neither are Christianity-focused covers, for that matter). They were a hallmark of Tina Brown's reign as editor, such as its 2012 cover titled "Muslim Rage."

This week's controversial cover story examines sexism in America's tech hub. The cover shows a faceless woman holding a laptop while her red skirt is lifted up by a mouse cursor.

The cover image and accompanying story has been met with considerable derision in many corners of the Internet, but the issue itself hasn't even hit newsstands. The criticism began rolling in almost immediately after the cover surfaced on Twitter this week.

Impoco said that Newsweek aims to get people talking by employing a "one-two punch with social [media] leading the way."

"There is nothing we want more than to start a national conversation about important topics," Impoco said. "The Silicon Valley and Bible covers are good examples. In the old days, Newsweek would often 'validate' the news, but that role is gone. Today, we have to create our own weather but also remain topical."

"We don't do controversy just for the sake of controversy," he added.

First Published: January 29, 2015: 5:18 PM ET


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Uber sued in U.S. over alleged India rape

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco on Thursday, claims that Uber did not adequately screen its drivers, or implement other basic safety measures that would have kept the plaintiff safe.

"Opening the Uber app and setting the pick-up location has proven to be the modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking," the lawsuit says. "Buyer beware -- we all know how these horror movies end."

The alleged rape, which took place in December, sparked protests in India's capital city, and calls for reforms that would safeguard women against sexual assault.

The Uber driver accused of carrying out the rape was found to have a long rap sheet, including at least four pending criminal cases in his home state. City transport officials subsequently banned the transportation app.

Uber said in a statement that its "deepest sympathies remain with the victim of this horrific crime."

"We are cooperating fully with the authorities to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice," the company said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the plaintiff, and the addition of safety measures including tamper-proof cameras and GPS tracking systems in Uber cars.

The victim, who remains anonymous, is represented by Douglas Wigdor, a high-profile attorney who previously represented the hotel maid who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.

Related: Uber's global ambitions hit roadblocks

Uber restarted operations in Delhi last week after applying for a local Radio Taxi license, a concession to regulators who are pushing the company to behave more like a traditional taxi service.

A license has not yet been issued. On Tuesday, Uber said it was operating as a not-for-profit in Delhi and waving all fees until "regulatory ambiguity is resolved."

Related: Uber restarts in New Delhi

Following the alleged rape, Uber has committed to adding new safety measures in Delhi, including an additional layer of screening and independent background checks on all drivers.

The company is no stranger to regulatory roadblocks. It faces legal challenges in a number of other markets around the world, a byproduct of its aggressive expansion and controversial product.

First Published: January 30, 2015: 1:16 AM ET


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Average 401(k) balance hits record $91,300

Written By limadu on Kamis, 29 Januari 2015 | 14.44

chart average 401k balances

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

At Fidelity, the average 401(k) balance hit $91,300 by the end of 2014. While that's up just 2% from 2013, it's a jump of more than 30% from 2011's average balance of $69,100, Fidelity reported.

The increase was due in part to the stock market, which saw the S&P 500 climb by more than 10%-- its third year of double-digit gains. But a spike in worker contributions also played a significant role.

Workers and their employers contributed an average of $9,670 in 2014, up 4% from the year before.

"The 401(k) is the sole source [of retirement savings] for many," said Fidelity vice president Jeanne Thompson. "I think there is heightened awareness of the importance of putting money into the 401(k)."

On average, employees socked away 8.1% of their salary, the highest savings rate recorded by Fidelity since 2011. Including an employer match, workers saved around 12% of their salary, which falls within the 10% to 15% recommended by financial planners.

Thompson credited the increasing savings rate to a growing number of employers who are automatically enrolling workers into their 401(k) plans at a contribution rate of 5% or more.

Consistent savers are doing especially well. Savers in their 401(k) plan for 10 years or more had an average balance of $248,000 -- an increase of 11% from what similar savers had a year ago.

Related: My biggest retirement mistake

The bad news: most people will need far more than that for a comfortable retirement. The common 4% rule for example, dictates that $250,000 would provide only $10,000 a year in retirement income.

Of course, 401(k) balances are just a snapshot of the retirement savings landscape since savers often have multiple investments and accounts like Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and annuities. Fidelity, for example, found IRA holders had an average balance of $92,200 in 2014.

With the stock market starting out on rocky footing this year, Fidelity urged savers to ignore the market turmoil and instead to focus on long-term savings goals.

"The typical American worker will see markets go up and down many times during their career," Jim MacDonald, president of workplace investing at Fidelity, said in a statement. "Commitment to a long-term savings and investing strategy will put individuals in the best position."

First Published: January 29, 2015: 12:56 AM ET


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Samsung needs to reinvent itself (again)

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

The fourth quarter results are troubling, but not unexpected. Samsung's profits have now declined for three consecutive quarters, a trend that has prompted some real soul searching at the South Korean electronics giant.

There were some bright spots: The company's smartphone business showed signs of stabilization, and chip sales were strong.

Yet there is no doubt: Samsung needs to reinvent itself.

For years, the company relied on its smartphone division to deliver major profits. Samsung had a iron grip on major markets including China, and huge margins helped turn the firm into one of the world's largest and most recognizable tech brands.

Related: Samsung's latest WTF phone

But intense competition at both the high and low ends of the smartphone market have reversed Samsung's fortunes. The company is now ranked third in China, behind Apple (AAPL, Tech30) and Xiaomi (a company that is only five years old). Analysts hold little hope for a return to dominance.

In response, Samsung is working to pare down its crowded smartphone lineup. It's also making a major move into India to capture more of the low-cost phone market.

Related: Apple just posted the best quarter in corporate history

But for a real turnaround, Samsung needs to identify its next silver bullet.

"With slowing growth and a huge revenue base, Samsung is in need of a new growth engine," Bernstein Research analyst Mark Newman wrote late last year.

Chances are, this new growth engine won't be a phone. It will be come from another sector of Samsung's sprawling business empire. Newman identified medical equipment -- where Samsung is already investing heavily -- as a promising area.

The good news for Samsung fans is that the company has transformation in its genes. Newman points to the "New Management Initiative" proposed by company leadership in 1993.

Responding to the threats of globalization and digitization, the new strategy allowed Samsung to become the company it is today. Newman argues the company needs to find "another 1993 moment."

But that, he notes, is no easy task -- especially with the health of Chairman Lee Kun-hee in question.

Related: Facebook is growing -- so are its costs

First Published: January 28, 2015: 9:59 PM ET


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Zuckerberg has his Tim Cook moment

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Wednesday, Zuckerberg shot back against a question related to Facebook's efforts in poor, unconnected countries. The analyst asked why Internet.org and other Facebook initiatives to connect African countries should matter to investors.

"It matters to the kind of investors we want to have," Zuckerberg said.

The Facebook (FB, Tech30) CEO's comments are similar to remarks made by Apple (AAPL, Tech30) CEO Tim Cook at Apple's shareholder meeting in May 2014. After the National Center for Public Policy Research urged Apple to stop wasting money on green technology, Cook told them to find another company to invest in.

"If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock, Cook said.

Related: Facebook is growing -- so are its costs

Zuckerberg echoed that sentiment Wednesday.

"If we were only focused on making money, we might put all of our energy in the U.S.," he said. "But that's not all we care about here."

Zuckerberg said connecting the unconnected could ultimately be a good investment opportunity for Facebook, though he conceded that he doesn't know when -- or if -- that would happen.

"This is why we're here," Zuckerberg said about Facebook's mission to connect everyone around the world.

In a decade, Zuckerberg said he hopes that Facebook's Internet.org division will succeed at getting millions more people online. The organization has already connected 6 million people who previously didn't have Internet access.

Facebook has also invested in drones to carry Wi-Fi signals to underserved areas, and it invested nearly $20 billion in WhatsApp to power connections to people who only have a phone connection.

First Published: January 28, 2015: 6:35 PM ET


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Did Fox and NBC get Bowe Bergdahl story wrong?

Written By limadu on Rabu, 28 Januari 2015 | 14.44

bowe bergdahl

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney)

Because of an inflammatory Fox News segment and an anonymously-sourced NBC News story that sent reporters scrambling for information.

The Fox and NBC stories prompted strong denials from Pentagon officials.

"The reporting from Fox News and NBC on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is patently false," Army Major General Ron Lewis said in a statement Tuesday.

"Let me just put a fork in this right now if I can," Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a news conference Tuesday. "No decision has been made with respect to the case of Sgt. Bergdahl. None. And there is no timeline to make that decision."

Another official called the Fox News report "speculative in nature."

But the Fox guest who originally made it a story said Tuesday night that he stands by what he said.

Bergdahl, a prisoner of the Taliban for five years, was released last summer in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees. He indeed may be charged with desertion, and CNN's Barbara Starr reported on Tuesday that a decision may come very soon.

But the Fox and NBC reports explicitly said that the decision had already been reached.

And the Fox segment strongly suggested that the White House was resisting the desertion charges.

On Monday's edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," guest Tony Shaffer, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, said he'd been told that "the Army has decided that they want to pursue Bergdahl for this violation."

Shaffer also claimed that Bergdahl's attorney has been given a "charge sheet." Starr's reporting has directly contradicted that: "Several military sources tell CNN that as of Tuesday morning," Gen. Mark Milley, "who is reviewing the case, has not signed or forwarded a charge sheet."

Host Bill O'Reilly said Monday "we hear that the White House has been stonewalling this information," spurring Shaffer to say "Bill, this is shaping up to be Titanic struggle behind the scenes."

Shaffer has been mired in controversy before. In 2012, he claimed on Fox that President Obama was "in the White House Situation Room in real-time watching" the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That conspiracy theory has been thoroughly refuted.

Fox's morning show repeated Shaffer's assertions about Bergdahl on Tuesday morning. "Is the White House covering up?" co-host Steve Doocy asked guest Laura Ingraham, who answered, "Well, it certainly seems like it."

The race was on for other news organizations to confirm Shaffer's assertion.

NBC seemed to do that at 10:30 a.m.: "Bergdahl will, in fact, face charges of desertion after walking off his base," the network's veteran Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said on MSNBC. He cited "senior defense officials."

The assertion was repeated on MSNBC right before a 2 p.m. Pentagon press conference. The channel didn't carry the press conference live, though. At the press conference, Kirby said "I think it is extraordinarily premature for anybody to say that they know" what Milley "is going to decide and when he's going to decide it."

By 6:30 p.m., the "NBC Nightly News" was sticking with "senior defense official" sources, but with a modifying word: the sources, Brian Williams said, are telling NBC that Bergdahl "likely will soon be charged with desertion."

Fox's 6 p.m. newscast "Special Report" included a story about the possibility of charges against Bergdahl and the Army's "swipe at the media," without explaining that it was "The O'Reilly Factor" that triggered that swipe.

O'Reilly returned to the story on Tuesday night. "They're calling you a liar," he said to Shaffer, who seemed to double down.

"I stand by all of those facts," Shaffer said, observing that military officials are "being very careful how they parse their words."

O'Reilly repeatedly said that he wanted to interview Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, on air.

"From a personal viewpoint," he said to Shaffer, "I hope you're right."

O'Reilly concluded, "We're in this for the truth."

First Published: January 27, 2015: 9:43 PM ET


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5 questions to ask a financial adviser before hiring one

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

It's no secret that the financial industry has a trust problem. Money pros essentially admitted as much in a recent survey, attributing investors' distrust to a "lack of ethical culture within financial firms."

So I don't blame your husband for being wary.

But based on my 30 years of experience writing about financial issues, I also know that there are plenty of competent and honest advisers who genuinely want to help their clients.

To identify someone who's skilled and trustworthy and avoid salespeople posing as advisers or, worse yet, an outright charlatan who just wants to separate you from your money, here are five questions you and your husband can ask an adviser before you hire one.

1. What credentials do you have?

There are dozens of titles and designations floating around these days, many of them dubious. But assuming you're looking for in-depth comprehensive advice -- say, to develop an overall saving and investing strategy to put you on track for a secure retirement -- you probably want a financial planner who holds the highly regarded Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFc) designation.

Related: Can I afford to retire early?

If, on the other hand you're just looking for a few fund recommendations or want to get a ballpark estimate of how much you should be saving for retirement, then a broker with an established, reputable investment firm or a representative with a mutual fund firm or discount brokerage that has a good roster of online tools and calculators for selecting investments and building a portfolio may be able to satisfy your needs.

2. Are there restrictions on the menu of products and services you can offer?

Ideally, you want an adviser who can build a diversified portfolio by picking the best options available, even if that means mixing and matching mutual funds, ETFs and other investments from a variety of firms.

In reality, though, many advisers are limited to a menu of investments and services that are sold by the company they work for or by affiliated firms.

Even if they can choose broadly in theory, some advisers may have a financial incentive to focus on the offerings of particular firms, or on specific investments (say, variable or index annuities). If, for whatever reason, an adviser is likely to steer you to a narrow roster of investments, you need to know about that beforehand so you can decide whether such strictures will interfere with you getting a portfolio that truly meets your needs.

3. How and how much will you charge?

Typically, advisers earn a living by collecting commissions on the investment products and services they sell, charging a fee for their advice or by doing both.

You can argue the pros and cons of each. But whichever method the adviser uses, he should provide a written estimate of the total fees and charges you'll pay initially and on an ongoing basis, as well as a breakdown of those costs.

Related: Sane investing in a scary market

That breakdown should include all payments going to the adviser from any source (fees, commissions, "trail" commissions paid on a yearly basis), as well as the underlying costs of the investments themselves (investment management fees, etc.). If you'll incur an exit fee or surrender charge for getting out of an investment, that should be disclosed as well.

4. How will you manage conflicts of interest?

There are any number of ways an adviser's interests may not align completely with yours.

Advisers who earn commissions may be tempted to sell you investments that give them the highest payout. Those who charge an annual fee for advice based on assets may have an incentive to let that fee automatically rise as assets do, even if the adviser's workload doesn't increase. A fee-only adviser might also be prone to avoid investments that can reduce the level of assets under management, such as immediate annuities.

For more than four years now, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Labor have been working on ways to better protect investors dealing with such conflicts. It's still unclear, though, if and when they'll take action.

Related: The only funds you need in your portfolio now

In the meantime, discussing potential conflicts in advance will allow you to see possible pitfalls in your relationship with the adviser, and give the adviser the opportunity to explain what he'll do to assure you are treated fairly.

5. How will I know if your advice is working?

A good adviser should propose some way of periodically gauging whether his guidance is paying off. That might mean comparing returns of recommended mutual funds or ETFs, as well as the investment portfolio overall, to the performance of an appropriate index or benchmark. In the case of broader advice, the adviser might need to show that your financial net worth is growing or that you're making quantifiable progress toward a secure retirement or some other long-term goal.

But you and the adviser should agree on some metric beforehand, as well as on a timetable (say, quarterly or semi-annually) for assessing performance and fine-tuning if needed.

Clearly, asking these five questions can't guarantee you'll end up with a terrific adviser. But if you combine them with a thorough background check with the regulators listed in the Check Out A Broker or Adviser section of the Securities and Exchange Commission site, you'll tilt the odds in your favor.

More from RealDealRetirement.com

5 ways to tell if you're really ready to retire

The 4 biggest retirement blunders

3 simple steps to crash-proof your retirement plan

First Published: January 27, 2015: 5:43 PM ET


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China vows to end gold medal obsession

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

Beijing will no longer reward provincial governments or officials for gold medals won by their representatives at the Asian Games and Olympics, according to a report prepared by the State General Administration of Sports.

The move away from a "gold medal fixation" is meant to satisfy regulators at the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the anti-graft watchdog that has been working to eliminate corruption as part of an campaign spearheaded by President Xi Jinping.

According to sports officials, the gold medal obsession and associated financial rewards had spurred some athletes and trainers to "unscrupulously win games, betray sportsmanship, ethics and the law." China's sprawling sports apparatus will now shift its focus to increasing public participation in sports and advancing education efforts.

China has long been fixated on capturing more gold medals in international competition. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the country's athletes won a total of 100 medals, 51 of which were gold. In London, Chinese athletes won gold 38 times, only eight shy of the U.S. haul.

Related: Olympics money pit scares off cities

China's success is the result of a campaign conducted over the previous two decades to lift the country from athletic obscurity (China did not win its first Olympic gold until 1984).

To improve in international competition, the state constructed a centralized athletics program similar to those of the Soviet Union and East Germany. Critics complained about the cost, but the system produced champions -- especially in individual sports like speed skating and diving.

Related: World Cup won't lift Brazil's economy

But Chinese competitors were often put under immense pressure to win. Even silver and bronze-winning performances were dismissed as inadequate. In 2012, one silver medal winner, the weightlifter Wu Jingbiao, broke down and cried on national TV.

"I shamed my country, my team and all of those who cared for me," he said.

Related: Sport in China is about more than patriotism

China is unlikely to dismantle its sports system. But by eliminating some of the performance-based incentives that led to corruption, silver and bronze might become a more palatable result.

"[Some officials had] superficially looked for results, the number of the gold medals, and neglected the education, guidance and management of athletes and trainers," the State General Administration of Sports said in its report.

-- CNN's Vivian Kam contributed reporting.

First Published: January 28, 2015: 1:43 AM ET


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Northeast blizzard: What you need to know if you're traveling

Written By limadu on Senin, 26 Januari 2015 | 14.44

weather snowstorm

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

A potentially "historic and destructive" nor'easter is expected to plow north through New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts -- including New York City and Boston -- starting Monday and could cripple travel in the region. Over the weekend, authorities issued winter storm and blizzard watches and forecasts called for between one and two feet of snow.

A storm of that size would likely shut down arrivals and departures from important airports, causing a ripple effect. If you're traveling this week, here's what you need to know:

United Airlines (UAL): The airline plans to run a full schedule out of Washington, D.C. on Monday, but operations will be limited at New York airports. United plans to cancel all flights Tuesday at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK, as well as Boston and Philadelphia.

American Airlines (AAL) and U.S. Airways: The airlines will let customers flying to or from two dozen Northeast airports rebook reservations made for Monday and Tuesday without a fee. The cities include Albany, Baltimore, Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. More from American. More from U.S. Airways.

Delta Air Lines (DAL): The airline has canceled approximately 600 flights scheduled for Monday. Customers headed to or from airports along the east coast on Monday or Tuesday may rebook flights with no extra fee. More from Delta.

JetBlue (JBLU): Customers may rebook travel into or out of certain cities in the Northeast for Monday and Tuesday. More from Jet Blue.

Southwest Airlines (LUV): Customers arriving to or departing from the Washington, D.C. area on Monday may rebook without a fee. Customers in the Northeast may make similar adjustments to their travel plans on for both Monday and Tuesday. More from Southwest.

Virgin America (VA): Travelers headed into or out of Boston, New York, Newark or Washington airports on Tuesday may change their reservation without fees. More from Virgin America.

First Published: January 25, 2015: 4:14 PM ET


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