By Jack Linshi
Updated: January 26, 2015 10:29 AM ET | Originally published: November 24, 2014

With a potentially historic winter storm barreling down on the northeastern United States Monday evening into Tuesday, there’s a few people who will have the tougher-than-usual job of figuring out which unlucky flights must be cancelled.

Meet the men and women operating the Cancellator, a computer system that decides whether or not you’ll be scrambling to rebook your January travel plans. The Cancellator and systems like it use an algorithm with some human input to decide which flights to delay or cancel in order to preserve as much of an airline’s original schedule as possible. The program’s ultimate goal is to nix flights well ahead of time, that way airlines can notify passengers of the changes before they head out for the airport — giving customers time to make alternate plans.

Want to know more about the software and employees deciding to cancel your flight? Read TIME’s March 3, 2014 cover story on airline cancellations here.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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