To some at La Guardia Airport, it seemed as if the Grinch was in charge.
At least 54 flights were canceled as of Saturday morning, the airport said on Twitter. Travelers were preparing to spend Christmas Eve at the airport or nearby hotels, or finding alternate ways to reach their holiday destinations.
Misty and Dan Ellis arrived at the airport for check-in at 3 a.m. with their teenage children. Hours later, their flight was canceled and each member of the family was rebooked on a different flight over two days without being consulted, Mr. Ellis said.
The family decided to rent a car and drive 14 hours to Nashville. But with no cars available nearby, the Ellises planned to take an Uber to rent one at Newark Liberty International Airport. The cost, Mr. Ellis said, was $1,100 for a one-way rental, but he did not mind paying it.
“We’ll be home, together,” he said, “for Christmas.”
Norma Balboa and her niece also experienced flight cancellations, and they were initially told they couldn’t be added before Tuesday to standby lists for travel.
“We’re here with no flight, no compensation, no hotel,” she said. “I want to stay in New York City, but not at the airport. I want to stay in a nice hotel, drinking hot chocolate.”
A customer service agent for Southwest Airlines said on Friday that the company was completely out of flights.
The weather also interrupted travel for people heading to New York. Mario and Maelle Flory had flown from Amsterdam to Chicago, where they waited 90 minutes for their luggage to arrive so they could board their La Guardia-bound connection. An exterior door had frozen shut, keeping unloaded luggage outside, the couple said.
“We are glad to be here,” said Mr. Flory, 31, who plans to spend time with his brother in New Jersey and visit Christmas sites in Manhattan. “We said we will never fly again on the 24th of December with a connecting flight — only direct flights.”
The wintry conditions were also complicating the jobs of workers at La Guardia. Michael Lliguicota, a baggage handler, said water had splashed inside the screen of the computer he uses to check in bags.
“It would be nice if we had a heater and a partition against the wind, not only for us, but for the customers,” Mr. Lliguicota said. “When we are busy, that’s good because we are moving.”
As wind gusts exceeded 30 miles per hour, John Rivera, a member of the airport’s maintenance crew, patrolled curbs with a stick, breaking up icy patches. He said he has to find them quickly to prevent workers and travelers from slipping.
“It freezes right away,” he said. “Once you get it at the right angle, it’s easy to break up.”