Airlines begin canceling flights in earnest

August 26, 2011 2:47:45 PM PDT
Hundreds of thousands of airline passengers will be grounded this weekend as Hurricane Irene sweeps up the East Coast, past some of the nation's busiest airports.

RELATED: Get the latest track of Irene with the Hurricane Tracker.

Delta Air Lines said Friday afternoon that it would cancel 1,300 flights this weekend and shut down entirely at New York-area airports on Sunday. Earlier, JetBlue Airways said it was scrubbing about 880 flights, most of them to and from hub airports in New York and Boston between Saturday and Monday.

American Airlines said it would cancel 265 flights on Saturday and probably even more on Sunday. It canceled 32 flights on Friday, mostly in North Carolina and Virginia. It also expects to halt flights in and out of Washington-area airports - about 150 flights a day - around noon Saturday. Southwest Airlines planned to stop flights to and from Norfolk, Va., beginning Saturday morning.

Irene is expected to make landfall around North Carolina on Saturday, move up the coast to New York on Sunday and then weaken in New England. It could strike major airports from Washington to Boston.

Delta's 1,300 cancelations, including Delta Connection flights, will equal about 8 percent of the company's flights between Saturday and Monday.

Other carriers will likely follow Delta and JetBlue in canceling flights. On Friday, they were waiting to be more certain about Irene's path before cutting flights.

The canceled JetBlue flights would likely have carried about 110,000 passengers. Delta did not say how many passengers would be affected.

Airlines waived rebooking fees for customers who wanted to delay their flights to more than two dozen cities on the East Coast. Details varied by airline, with some giving travelers more time to make their rescheduled flight. Travelers whose flights were canceled would be eligible for refunds.

George Hobica, founder of the travel website, said travelers who bought nonrefundable tickets should wait until the airline cancels the flight rather than taking the airlines' offer to reschedule by a few days.

The problem with rebooking on the airlines' terms, Hobica says, is that you're unlikely to want to take the same trip a few days later.

Airlines have reduced flights in recent years, meaning it could be several days for stranded travelers to find a seat on another plane, says Airline consultant Mark Kiefer.

The hurricane will also affect cars, buses and trains.

A spokesman said Greyhound Lines started to cancel some service between Washington and New York on Thursday. Amtrak canceled most of its scheduled Saturday passenger rail service south of Washington through Sunday.


RELATED: How to prepare for Hurricane Irene

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